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Glasgow may have a bigger budget these days, but they lack that Firhill magic . . .

W alking round the Firhill pitch for the post-match press conference, Swanny of the Record, among the best and - as a lock-in at an Inverness pub revealed a year or two back - the most dangerous of company was in uncharacteristically wistful mode.

When the Killer Bs buzzed, so did Firhill. At Scotstoun, something is missing. Picture: SNS
When the Killer Bs buzzed, so did Firhill. At Scotstoun, something is missing. Picture: SNS

"This is a proper football ground," he observed.

"The new stadiums have plenty going for them, but they don't have character like this."

It is as a rugby ground that I have the fondest memories of this home of thrills. As time passes it becomes ever more evident that Glasgow Warriors' six years sharing Partick Thistle's home will be remembered as a special time.

The move there was made in 2006 after an extraordinary result on a weather-enforced switch of the 2005 festive derby when Glasgow thrashed Edinburgh 46-6, the day Johnnie Beattie announced himself to the rugby world.

He, in turn, would feature in my own wee contribution to Warriors folklore with the naming of the Killer Bs back-row. When I told my sports editor that would be the tag-line to an article on Beattie, John Barclay and Kelly Brown he agreed it was cheesy but catchy.

The Killer Bs became synonymous throughout Europe with Glasgow's best performances in that era. When the Bs buzzed, so did Firhill.

Bringing them together, from three different Scottish districts, reflected a combination of brilliant identification of the best Scottish talent and how best to use them. At the same time, recruitment of cheap imports who could do a job, helped Glasgow become a force to be reckoned with, especially at Firhill.

All achieved with pretty much the smallest budget in the European professional game, inferior even to Edinburgh since many of their costs were disguised by being at Murrayfield. It is an extraordinary fact that, largely because of that home form, Glasgow defied the odds year after year in not once finishing bottom of a European pool while at Firhill and also managing to reach the PRO12 play-offs in two of their final three seasons there.

The contrast with the present day is remarkable, with Glasgow this season as likely to lose at home as away and having finished bottom of their Heineken Cup pool in both seasons at Scotstoun.

All this at a time when their resources are such that failure to reach the PRO12 play-offs is unthinkable. It was bizarre to visit the Ospreys this season and hear their coach commenting on how they now struggle to compete with squads as large as that of big-spending Glasgow.

Which prompts another memory. One of the contempt heaped by the Welsh press on the repeated Heineken Cup failings of the Ospreys of that bygone era.

Under the rugby directorship of a certain Scott Johnson they were dubbed at the time rugby's "Galacticos". It was only a few years ago, yet the organisation is now struggling is desperate financial straits. Further food for thought on that was provided during a debate on the radio the other night when Steve Claridge noted that many football clubs suffer for years after a manager who has been over-indulged departs, leaving them deep in debt.

It can be difficult for chairmen, managing directors and chief executives to avoid throwing good money after bad when their own reputations are tied to those they have appointed.

Whether that is the case at Murrayfield right now is for the wider rugby community to ponder while, more specifically, the vastly increased resources allied to the European failures surely make qualification for the PRO12 play-offs an absolute minimum requirement for Glasgow Warriors this season.

To that end the next two weekends at Scotstoun will be vital and Glasgow simply must recapture the old Firhill mentality as they go into meetings with the Scarlets and the Ospreys - rivals for the fourth qualifying spot - as clear favourites.

And Another Thing . . .

Every school-kid knows that if your goalie gets sent off you have to take off an out-field player at the same time and replace him with the substitute goalie right?

Consider, then, in that context, the words of the man paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for overseeing the Scotland rugby team's tactics for the past two years and who has now had a promotion and a pay rise for his efforts. "Full-back is a hell of a position to fill for that length of time," Scott Johnson said of having to cope after Stuart Hogg's idiotic dismissal. "If it's a forward you can cover it, but it's harder to cover a back division player."

Even if his highly dubious distinction between forwards and backs in this context is accepted the solution then was? All together now!

Yet of the 16 replacements on duty the only one not to take the field at any stage was Scotland's Jack Cuthbert . . . a specialist full-back.

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