So many of us dreamt, as boys and girls, of captaining Partick Thistle to glory. Raising a trophy aloft at Hampden Park, while proudly sporting a red and yellow jersey. For one man, 52 years ago this week, that dream came true. There could scarcely be a more appropriate candidate for the fifteenth Thistle Pin than Alex Rae. The 25-year-old skipper in the team that “had no chance”, and yet which defied all the odds.

Alex's Arrival

Alex Rae began his footballing career at East Fife in the 1960s, before moving down to England and playing a single season for Bury. He was eventually signed for Thistle in the summer of 1970 by Davie McParland, who was rebuilding the Thistle squad after its first relegation since 1901. Alex made his Thistle debut in a friendly away at Tranmere Rovers the following month.

An attacking midfielder, Rae was an important part of the Second Division-winning side in 1970-71. A return to the top flight was critical for the Jags, to prove the doubters wrong. He scored six goals in the 1970-71 campaign (three in the league), as Thistle clinched the title at the expense of his former team, East Fife.

That day at Hampden

It’s the 23rd of October 1971 for which Alex is most fondly remembered by Thistle fans. Despite making their way back into the top flight, Davie McParland’s side were written off by the pundits before a ball was kicked. Between Thistle and the League Cup stood a team feared and respected across Europe.

Jock Stein’s Celtic still featured three of the Lisbon Lions, and were ably supplemented by a Scotland great in Kenny Dalglish, and future Thistle manager Bertie Auld. They were five seasons into their “nine-in-a-row” and were in no mood to go easy on a young, mostly part-time outfit from the North of Glasgow.

But then, nine minutes in, something magical happened. Celtic struggled to deal with a McQuade corner, and the clearing header was miscued. Thistle’s Captain – their talismanic Number 10 – anticipating this perfectly, took a couple of steps back, and as the ball dropped, thumped the ball over a hopeless Evan Williams into the top corner.

Too often for the Jags, this would be the pride before the fall. But not under Rae’s captaincy. The fairytale continued… Lawrie… McQuade… Bone… the rest is history. Thistle didn’t just beat Celtic that day. The heroes in red and yellow utterly outclassed them. And it’s with great leaders that moments like those happen.

What came next?

In just over three years at the Jags, Alex Rae made 151 appearances and clocked up 13 competitive goals (plus two more in friendlies). He left in the autumn of 1973, going on to play again for East Fife and then Cowdenbeath and Forfar Athletic.

It was at Forfar where Alex would dip his toes into football management, leading The Loons from the dugout between 1980 and 1983. During that time, he took Forfar to their only ever Scottish Cup semi-final, even forcing Rangers to a replay in April 1982.

Alex was inducted into the Partick Thistle Hall of Fame with the 1971 Cup Final squad in 2009.

It was a genuine pleasure to work with Alex, to pick a suitable photo for his Pin, and to present it to him at Firhill earlier this week. Thank you for letting us dare to dream.

How can I get an Alex Rae Pin?

The great news is that you can get your hands on an Alex Rae Pin more easily than with previous Pins!

At 7pm on Thursday 26th October, the Alex Rae Pin will go on sale at the TJF Shop.

All TJF members have access to the shop, so join TJF today if you haven’t already! Once logged-in, you’ll be able to buy not just the Rae Pin, but those from previous releases too!

Each Thistle Pin costs £10 including P&P to any UK destination.*

Thistle Pins are a vital part of the TJF fundraising strategy. They make sure we can meet our £10kpm pledge to the Club in the 2023-24 season and support other projects in the wider Thistle community.

*A small surcharge applies for those ordering to a non-UK address.