Goodbye My Old Friend!

Today I unfortunately have to write one of the saddest blog posts I’ll ever have to write.

This week my wife’s father, William Murdoch Thomas, passed away at the age of eighty. He was a great man, much loved by his friends and family.

Now why am I writing about William or Billy as I knew him? Well he loved football and not in a way we all associate with these days.

I love football, I have done all my life but Billy found ways to enjoy his football that put me to shame.

Billy would read his newspapers everyday, so he kept up to date with everything. He wouldn’t have been fond of Gordon Strachan’s genetic excuses for Scotland failing to qualify for the World Cup. I can imagine him stating that they weren’t good enough and that was that.

His team of choice was Partick Thistle. His grandson, Owen, bought him a Jags car scarf that he proudly displayed in his Land Rover. While going through his stuff we managed to find various Partick Thistle scarves and ties.

Although he didn’t go to many games at Firhill recently, he loved talking about them both past teams as well as present. He was a Glaswegian that couldn’t hide his hatred for any bigoted nonsense that would sometimes hinder our city.

Like many of his generation, Billy hated the amount of money that flows in and out of the game these days. You should’ve seen him this summer when I told him the fee Manchester United paid for Romelu Lukaku. I’m pretty sure he rolled his eyes and let out a ‘Jesus Christ!’.

Man United were another team William was fond of. The main reason for this was Sir Alex Ferguson. Like Fergie, Billy was a Govan boy and he loved that a fellow Govan graduate was able to be successful and he enjoyed the way his teams played.

Billy also idolised Denis Law. He’d often say:

I don’t care about Elvis or Dalglish, Denis Law was the real King!’.

He would often tell me how magical Law was and how he was Scotland’s greatest forward. You could see the passion in Billy’s eyes as he discusses Denis, he’d get excitedly animated and I was always keen to listen and take it all in. Even in his final days William was still reading his Denis Law autobiography.

Now why was Billy a bit different with his love of the game? 

Well firstly he would take Owen to most of his games. Owen has always played for a team and it would be Billy that would drive him to training and his games.

William loved watching Owen play. He’d often critique his grandson and add praise when it was merited. Talking to Billy about Own you could see how proud he was of him and that he thought he was a good footballer, who worked hard and gave his all for his team. The fact Owen was passionate about playing created a huge bond between the two. Billy would much rather watch his grandson than sit at the TV and watch the professional game.

Billy was also interested in whatever club Owen was playing for and all of his teammates. Some got slagged off and couldn’t beat the ‘blind asylum’, others really impressed him and he’d say one would often remind him of Billy Bremner (I think being wee and ginger helped).

Billy also liked that Owen and his longtime school friend Tony were a good defensive partnership. He’d tell you that they had a good understanding and complimented each other.

See that’s the thing, Billy didn’t just turn up and drop off Owen, nor did he just watch out of politeness. He got actively involved and supported all of the players, even the opposition.

William also loved taking the dogs, Clyde and Miller, out.

On Saturdays he’d take them to the local playing fields and watch the games there. That’s what I loved about the man, he didn’t need to watch aesthetically pleasing football to be happy (although he did like the Dutch total football sides and Barcelona), he could watch any game at any level to be content with his life.

Now I think a big part of that was down to the fact that he felt part of it. He’d know the teams and would speak to the coaches and substitutes during the game. He kept score, would judge who the better team was and who the best players were. Then he’d tell me or Owen or whomever would listen about the match he’d watched that weekend.

One hazard of taking dogs to the game was that one would no doubt enter the field, more often than not it would be my dog Miller. This would create a fuss, with the footballers understandably peeved that their game had to be stopped as an out of control Cocker Spaniel danced around them gleefully.

Calls of ‘Get yir dug on a lead’ would be bellowed out, followed by a quick witted reply from Billy stating Why? He’s the best player on the park!.

The churches league often impressed William as they’s respect the referee and it would contain little to no ‘Effin and jeffin!

There are many reasons why I loved Billy. But in all honestly, he showed me that football doesn’t start and end with the elite sides. Yes you can appreciate them but never forget the grass roots. Also remember that your family means more than any game and just embrace life.

Before every alcoholic beverage Billy would toast ‘Here’s to the first of the day!’, even if that was indeed your third or fourth of the day.

So here’s to your first of the day William Thomas, you were a great man! You have a wonderful family and I’ll do my upmost to look after them and follow your fine example!

5 Responses to “Goodbye My Old Friend!”

  1. Superb piece. ????

  2. A great man indeed it was a privilege to have known Billy, I will miss his witty banter.

  3. Reading this has brought many tears to my eyes as i work with Diane and yes she would speak openly about her dad the dogs and her family as you know they were a close family. He sounds like the perfect gentleman, father and father inlaw that a daughter and son inlaw would most defo be proud of and thoughts to you all. What a lovely blog to write and love reading about the football bits and he wasnt wrong in what he says and in a way has made me think of my father today who had very similar views on football. Thinking of you all. Donna xx

  4. Lovely post Scott. I did not know him but from your post I know I would have liked him. So sorry for your loss. Love to you and Diane. Xx

  5. Thank you for all the support and the lovely comments.

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