A WEEK is an awfully long time in the life of a Partick Thistle supporter.

As they sat down to their bowls of Fruit ’n Fibre last Saturday morning, long-suffering followers of the Firhill club were feeling, for a welcome change, positively ebullient.

Their beloved team had played Ross County off the park in the first leg of the Premiership play-off final in Maryhill that Thursday night and recorded a comfortable 2-0 win to extend their unbeaten run to 11 games.

They were looking forward to following Kris Doolan’s seemingly unstoppable red-and-yellow juggernaut up the A9 to Dingwall the following day and were quietly confident their heroes would secure a return back to the top flight in the rematch.

Fast forward seven days, though, and Jags fans are feeling more apprehensive about what the future holds than a schoolboy on work experience at This Morning.

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The calamitous late collapse they suffered in the second leg at the Global Energy Stadium on Sunday evening – they were, in case you somehow missed it, leading 3-0 on aggregate with 20 minutes remaining and ended up being beaten in a penalty shoot-out – was painful even by Thistle standards.

But, inconceivably, far worse developments have followed this week.

A statement posted on their official website on Wednesday morning revealed they had, despite coming within a spot-kick of clinching promotion, made what were described as “eye-watering losses” of £280,000 during the 2022/23 campaign.

The missive went on to reveal that when the new board had, after a protracted, occasionally bizarre and often ugly power struggle, taken over in December they discovered they had a substantial cash-flow deficit and were lacking the funds needed to see out the season.

The Herald:

The reasons given? An anticipated investment had failed to materialise around the same time as the previous regime had increased the outlay on the first-team squad in the hope of clinching a place in the Premiership. 

The Jags Foundation announcement which followed shortly afterwards claimed they would have been unable to pay their wages in February had they not beaten Dunfermline on penalties in the Scottish Cup and then been drawn to face Rangers at Ibrox.

To cap a truly wretched few days, Scott Tiffoney, their winger and second-highest goalscorer, promptly departed for newly-promoted Dundee following the expiration of his contract. Whatever’s next? A merger with Queen’s Park?

The loss to County was, while excruciating, the sort of crushing disappointment that can, and frequently does, happen in football.

Having to play five intense and important matches in the space of three weeks at the end of a mentally and physically draining season clearly took its toll on Thistle. They visibly wilted in the stifling heat up in the Highlands.

But the venerable Glasgow institution’s off-field predicament is simply inexcusable. 

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The old board’s unwillingness to hand over Colin Weir’s majority shareholding to the Jags Foundation – and the EuroMillions lottery winner had expressed the desire to see his fellow supporters receive his 55 per cent stake before he passed away in 2019 – always stank worse than the Forth and Clyde Canal on a sunny day.

Their refusal to let the group – who repeatedly stressed, following advice from their two chartered accountants, the club had to be operating on a sustainable basis and breaking even if they were to succeed – examine the books before taking control reeks to high heaven given recent disclosures.

The foundation directors were painted as incompetent, grasping and divisive despite their years of unpaid hard work behind the scenes before the PTFC Trust – a hitherto anonymous and undemocratically elected entity – were suddenly announced as the preferred recipients of Weir’s shares in August.

Who looks unprofessional now? Quite why the former custodians of Thistle chose to gamble on promotion in a league that comprised Ayr United, Dundee, Hamilton Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Morton, Queen’s Park and Raith Rovers and is, as we have just seen, notoriously difficult to get out of is best known to them.

What Thistle originally offered – before, that is, protests inside and outside the stadium on match days forced directors to resign en masse – was a kind of fan ownership lite. It would certainly have seen supporters consulted regularly on club affairs. But they would have held little if any real sway.

Who looks best placed to run a football club now? The foundation have committed to putting in £170,000 in the months ahead and £50,000 of that has already been transferred. Talks are ongoing with other potential commercial partners. Cost-cutting measures have also been implemented.

The chances are they will, as they have before, come through this period of uncertainty. Jags diehards will certainly feel more comfortable putting in their hard-earned now than they would have been six months ago with kindred spirits at the helm.

There is, incredibly given it is how successful Premiership outfits Hearts, Motherwell and St Mirren all operate, still a lingering mistrust of fan ownership in some quarters in Scottish football and a strange reluctance to move away from the traditional wealthy benefactor business model.

The sorry saga that has unfolded at Partick Thistle in the last few years has shown that it is the only way ahead for the game in this country.