“FOOTBALL without fans is nothing.”

One of the all-time great football quotes which, of course, has its roots here in Scotland.

Edited from a longer quote by the late, great Jock Stein many years ago, the famous fitba phrase is now intrinsically linked with our beautiful game.

I’ll come back to that quote again at the end but it’s been stated many times over during the last month or so since Scottish football grounds were limited to 500-crowd capacities throughout the festive period.

Such a shame, as it’s usually one of the most thrilling, punter-friendly periods of the season.

While the top flight took an early Winter break, the lower leagues have powered on regardless.

Which brings me to a punter I picked up last week. A Partick Thistle fan going from Partick station to Partick Thistle FC’s HQ at Firhill, to enjoy some pre-match hospitality ahead of the Wednesday evening Ayr United match.

He was buzzing for the game and buzzing to get in my taxi, as it was absolutely chucking it down.

I got him to Firhill for his scheduled 5.30pm start for drinks with friends, before a meal, more drinks, the game, more drinks, then home again.

I hadn’t long left him when I heard on the radio the game had failed a late pitch inspection and was off. Poor punter, I thought, what a shame.

Fair play to the Jags, as it turns out they fed and watered the hardy diners given they were on site before the call-off – they even met the manager too.

How did I learn this? Well around the back of 8pm I got another hire … you’ve guessed it, to pick up a fan at Firhill and take him to Partick station. It couldn’t be, could it?

It sure was. And he was even more buzzing this time – after almost three hours of uninterrupted hospitality not to mention time spent with friends.

We chatted away, during the short journey back to the station to allow him to get his train home.

“Football without fans is nothing”, I mentioned, referring to the current situation.

Quick as a flash he replied: “Fans without football – that’s even worse!”.

Brilliant. Both are true!

Let’s hope that we get safely back to bigger attendances very quickly as it’s so important to so many people in this city and country, with an enormous positive impact on mental health in particular.

Until then, stay safe. And ...

Happy New Year.