WHEN speaking to Denis McQuade these days, it is a little difficult to ascertain just how this amiable and somewhat genteel chap came by such nicknames as ‘The Mad Monk’, ‘Crazy Horse’ and the rather intriguing moniker of ‘The Madness’.

Perhaps it was his role on the field as the prototypical ‘mercurial’ winger in his 70’s heyday, a term often used to describe a player capable of getting you out of your seat with a moment of genius one minute, and then have you slumped with your head in your hands the next. McQuade modestly concedes he could be as exasperating as he was exhilarating.

No matter though, because he more than played his part in perhaps the finest moment in Partick Thistle’s history, grabbing the third of four Thistle goals as they blew away the Celtic side of Kenny Dalglish, Jimmy Johnstone et al one famous day at Hampden in October 1971.

That League Cup final triumph remains the last major trophy lifted by Thistle, and given their propensity for drawing Celtic out of the hat in recent years in cup competitions, another year may yet pass without them threatening to end that barren run.

McQuade though, as all good Thistle men and women do, possesses an upbeat attitude towards their chances no matter who they are facing. Perhaps that is another hint, all you cynics out there may say, of where those nicknames came from.

“I’m always ready for a surprise when Thistle are up against it,” says McQuade.

Of course, no one else outside of Firhill gives the Jags any sort of chance, but that is a familiar tale.

“I remember being interviewed before the '71 final by Arthur Montford, and I said ‘well, even if it is 100/1, there is always the chance that this could be that one day’”, McQuade said.

“Fortunately, we had a manager in Davie McParland who had a very positive attitude towards these things.

“The Celtic team back then was an incredible side. They were in the middle of their nine-in-a-row run, they had been in the European Cup final the year before and lost to Feyenoord, so they were full of internationals and experience. It didn’t look very good on paper, but we had youthful enthusiasm on our side and self-belief.

“It wasn’t a fluke, even Jock Stein said that. We absolutely went for it from the first kick off and we could have scored more goals that day.

“By the time it came to my turn to hit one off Frank Coulston’s back and in, Celtic were already looking a bit non-plussed. They weren’t expecting this.

“Half-time was just surreal, because we sat down, and it was total silence. We didn’t really appreciate what had just happened.

“McParland basically said that if we could keep them under control for the first 15 minutes, then we were going to win, and he was absolutely right.”

Whether current Thistle boss Ian McCall will be pinning any articles rubbishing his side’s chances to the dressing room wall tonight remains to be seen, but surely none have treated the Jags with the lack of respect shown by Grandstand presenter Sam Leitch back in ’71, who famously proclaimed; ''In Scotland, it's League Cup final day at Hampden Park, where Celtic meet Partick Thistle, who have no chance."

“We didn’t know about that one because we were on the way to the game,” said McQuade. “But one thing that did motivate us happened just before the match as we were coming in from the walk about the park.

“We were alongside some of the Celtic players, and Lou Macari made a comment to Bobby Lawrie along the lines of ‘Well at least you’ll get a runner’s up medal’. Alex Rae was right alongside, and I heard it as well.

“Alex came in and said ‘Did you hear that? Well, if we needed any more motivation, there it is’. You’ve got turn anything you can into a positive on a day like that.”

The present day Celtic players are unlikely to provide such added motivation this evening, so what advice from a hero of old as the current Thistle squad look to etch their own names in Firhill folklore?

“I’m not Ian McCall, and he will have his gameplan, but if it was me, I’d be telling them to go at Celtic from the kick-off and see what happens, because what happened that day was that Celtic got a bit taken aback by our aggression,” McQuade said.

“We could play them 10 times and they would beat us nine times, but that day, it just all went our way. But we made it happen, and that’s what you’ve got to do against Celtic. You can’t sit back with the quality they’ve got and expect them to give you the game.

“They’ve got to go for it. One thing is for sure with this Celtic team, who are very good, is that if you try to contain them then defeat is inevitable. If you have a go, then you never know.

“It’s amazing what a goal can do early on. They would have to open up, and then you can maybe sneak another one.

“That’s exactly what happened in our League Cup final, we just kept going for it and we kept scoring goals.

“They should go into the game feeling they’ve got nothing to lose, no one will expect them to do anything, and that’s when the big surprises come off.”

It seems there is method to ‘The Madness’, after all.