APPARENTLY, there are several billion reasons why Partick Thistle supporters should be excited about the future of their club at the moment. But as the prospect of an apparent takeover of the Firhill club by capitalist investment firm NewCity Capital, led by Chinese businessman Chien Lee, moves closer, the lack of ticker tape parades down Maryhill Road are conspicuous by their absence.

It should be the stuff of a football fan’s dreams. The scenario straight out of Football Manager, where a wealthy benefactor comes into a club and lavishes riches upon it. Suddenly, the notion of Kevin De Bruyne lining up alongside Kingsley or Paul Pogba popping into The Woody for a post-match pint don’t seem so outlandish. Judging by his performances while he was here, his brother Mathias was presumably a regular in the recent past.

But while there may be Thistle fans out there whose heads are filled with dreams of the Firhill Galacticos, the reality may well be somewhat different. And the reason that the vast majority of fans aren’t getting carried away is that there are still far more questions than answers over what lies ahead for their club.

The first, and chief amongst those, is what is in it for NewCity Capital? Why Partick Thistle? No offence to the Jags, wonderful club that they are, but why would a Chinese-American capital investment firm see fit to buy a club in the Scottish Championship with a hardcore support of around 3000 fans? It isn’t, you can be assured, through benevolence.

Two possible motivations. either to cast Thistle as a feeder club or worse, to leverage funds against their assets, aren’t particularly palatable.

As you may know, NewCity Capital also have controlling stakes in English Championship side Barnsley and OGC Nice, although there has been interest from British billionaire Jim Ratcliff in taking over the French outfit following protests by fans and a boycott of season ticket sales over Lee’s stewardship of the club.

One of the main bugbears from Nice supporters centres upon a lack of investment, with Lee refusing to splash the cash on big-money transfers and preferring the ‘big data’ approach led by Moneyball pioneer Billy Beane, who is himself involved with the firm. This approach has brought some relative success to the club though, as it also has at Barnsley, and while fans of bigger clubs may rail against a refusal to display largesse, that may be a comforting notion for Jags fans.

Scottish football’s recent history is littered with outside investors who have come in with grand ideas of taking smaller clubs and challenging the Old Firm, bringing in players on unsustainable salaries and then saddling those clubs with the debts once they lose interest in the project. Ask any Dundee or Motherwell supporter, clubs still suffering from legacy issues from the whims of wealthy ‘benefactors’, whether the temporary giddy high was worth the painful low that followed.

So, the apparent financial prudence of NewCity should provide some comfort, although that should also be tempered by what has also gone on at Barnsley recently, where cash has been raised by borrowing against the club’s assets. If NewCity’s professed aim to make the club self-sufficient is to ring true, why do they need to raise this extra cash against the stadium and assets of the club?

Well, nobody got rich by spending their own money. The conclusion is that Thistle, like Barnsley and Nice before them, would become an investment vehicle, which when compared to clubs who have fallen victim to sugar daddies in the past, may not necessarily be such a bad thing. The end game may simply to invest the relatively small sum it may take to make Thistle more competitive in the Scottish game and then reap the rewards down the line, whether that is from increased prize money or more likely, from player sales. As long as there is success on the pitch and the club isn’t in any financial danger, would supporters be able to grudgingly stomach being run for the end goal of making already wealthy people just a little bit richer? Perhaps.

As far as being a feeder club goes, that too is a double-edged sword. Yes, there would be access to the best young talent at both Nice and Barnsley, who would presumably come up to Thistle to play real ‘men’s football’. The flip side of that is Gary Caldwell - should he remain in place, of course - may have players foisted upon him that he doesn’t particularly want, and have pressure applied to him to play them ahead of those he brought to the club.

And before even considering all of this, NewCity will have to negotiate a way around rules over dual ownership, although they must be fairly confident of doing that having come so far down the line in their discussions with new chairman David Beattie.

In the few dealings with Beattie I have had in the past, the one thing that has shone through is his passion for Thistle, and so I have no doubt that he would not be contemplating facilitating the takeover should it not – in his belief, at least – be in the best interests of the club. He was there when Thistle became ‘mortgage-free’, as he put it, in 2015, and given his public joy at that development it would now be hugely hypocritical of him to place the club in a position where they could once again be saddled with debts.

Whatever your opinion on his part in the boardroom coup which saw him displace Jacqui Low last week, the one thing that can’t be doubted is that he is a Thistle man. He is also the man who must now provide some clarity to the situation by answering the questions above, and by addressing the concerns of supporters over the motives of any outside investment.

Until he does, the Woody will be full of trepidation, rather than full of stars.


THE prospect of former Leicester City right-back Danny Simpson winning a deal at Celtic raises the spectre of what past misdemeanours clubs are prepared to overlook in order to land a player.

There was a vocal element of Celtic supporters who derided Rangers last season for signing Jon Flanagan, a player who had been convicted of assaulting his girlfriend, and that's before even mentioning Paul Gascoigne.

Simpson though has also been convicted of assaulting his former partner back in 2015, so should that exclude the former EPL winner from playing for Celtic? Or does everyone deserve a second chance? We shall see.