Craig Walker, media officer for Partick Thistle Women spoke to Ben Gilby about the journey that the club has been on, their successes last season, and the challenges that they faced having gained promotion to the top flight in Scottish Women’s football at the eleventh hour.
Above: Partick Thistle group together for a positive start to their top-flight campaign Photo: @ThistleWFC
“It’s been an incredible journey since the team was started around eight years ago,” Craig began. “In that time we’ve built the club up and gained promotion through the league to where we find ourselves now in the top tier of Scottish women’s football. A lot of hard work has gone on to gain that both on and off the pitch and I think we have what is regarded as a very professional setup.”
Last season saw Partick Thistle finish third in the SWPL2, Craig summarised their campaign.
“It was a very stop-start season due to COVID so very much a season of two halves. It’s been tough with the split season that the pandemic caused last season and lockdowns affecting training, but I think we managed quite well. Not having fans last season was obviously a challenge but I think we did well to keep fans involved and interested in the team.“I think we did very well overall and were up fighting for the entire season, a few results early on and towards the end cost us a place in the top two but the girls did extremely well and were disappointed at that point to miss out on a promotion place, although of course later on that situation changed.”
It was a real tussle with Aberdeen, Hamilton Academical, and Dundee United in the top four of the SWPL2 last season. Craig detailed how the games went against their other promotion challengers.
“Our result of the season was probably the 5-1 home victory over Aberdeen when they were unbeaten. We were excellent that day and deserved our margin of victory. We were disappointed in our showings against Hamilton which probably contributed to them finishing second rather than ourselves.”
Promotion came late in the day for Partick Thistle, and in unfortunate circumstances due to difficulties at Forfar-Farmington which led that club to withdraw from the top flight. The knock-on impact of having to build for a top-flight campaign at very short notice was very tough.
“We’re obviously very sad for Forfar and what happened to them, you never want to see that happen to a fellow club and we hope they are back as soon as possible. The opportunity however was one we couldn’t turn down and one as a club that we relish and believe we are ready for. We have a very hard-working squad with plenty of togetherness and team spirit so while it’s a challenge it’s one they’ve all gone into together and one they are determined to meet.
“We’d obviously started putting a squad together for SWPL2 so we’ve had to swivel slightly with recruitment, it meant we were a little behind some clubs round about us while also having to get things ready off the field for a higher league. It’s been challenging but one we are determined to be successful in.”
The next step, competing with the top sides in Scottish Women’s Football is an exciting one for the club, and Craig is positive that Partick has what it takes to be competitive and ensure that higher-level football is sustainable.
“I think we’ve got all the ingredients to be successful. A hard-working talented squad with a mix of experience and youth and a manager that knows how to get the best out of the players and has been there and done it in the men’s game so has a lot of footballing knowledge and experience.
“I think believing in ourselves and staying together is important. There are a lot of tough games in the division that might not always go our way but the team will always give it their all.”
Partick Thistle’s promotion to the top flight now means that four of the division’s ten clubs are based in Glasgow. There are plenty of exciting local derbies for the Jags this season as Craig highlighted.
“The three other Glasgow sides are obviously fighting for the title and are full-time. So while these games will be hard, having them as Glasgow derbies make them that little bit more exciting for the supporters.”
Partick Thistle has a good pathway in place to bring girls through to the senior teams at the club.
“We have a good partnership with Drumchapel United, a local girl’s team where some of their players come to train with our squad and there is a pathway for them to move up to our senior team. We also have some of their younger players as ball girls on match day which allows them to come and watch and be involved in match day.”
Another positive is the ties between the men’s and women’s teams at the club. “We have two of the men’s squad in the coaching staff. Manager Brian Graham is the men’s top scorer while coach Ross Docherty is the men’s captain. So there is a close link between the two sides,” Craig highlighted.
The club has clear aims to be a long-term member of the SWPL1 as Craig underlined: “Staying in the top division is the main goal for the team. To stabilize at that level and build each year, always moving forward. Growing interest and support of the team while giving young girls something to look up to and aim for is also important.”