Building for the Future

Thorn Athletic Community Trust is celebrating after landing a £5,000 donation from local home builder Persimmon West Scotland.


The Johnstone-based organisation includes Thorn Athletic Community Football Club and Thorn Athletic Sports Academy and aims to provide all members of the local community with the opportunity to access quality sport and recreational activities, whatever their age, ability, gender or ethnicity.


Thorn Athletic’s programme of activities sees more than 400 local children playing organised football and more than 100 people attending other community programmes. Their facility is also home to a variety of community groups, ranging from mother and toddler classes to clubbercise dance workouts. The activities are supported by a group of more than 50 volunteers.


Persimmon’s £5,000 donation is being delivered through their Community Champions scheme, which supports good causes in areas where the company builds new homes. The scheme has seen over £1.5m donated to local charities, clubs and organisations across the UK since 2021.


The money will go towards maintenance equipment to help volunteers look after the community sports pitch.


Thorn Athletic Chairperson Mark McGee said:


“The support of the business community is absolutely vital to the work we do and this significant grant will allow us to enhance our project for the benefit of the whole community.”


Local Councillor and Thorn Athletic Committee member Iain McMillan said:


“I am delighted that Persimmon Homes have recognised the role Thorn Athletic play in the local community. The money given to the club will go to further improve the activities they can offer to local people.”


Persimmon West Scotland Managing Director Chris Logan said:


“Thorn Athletic is a pillar of the community in Johnstone and their activities benefit people of all ages right across Renfrewshire.


“I’m delighted we’re able to support the Trust’s volunteers with this donation, which we hope will help ensure hundreds of people can continue to participate in their football and community programmes.”




Thorn Athletic – Presidents Cup Winners 2021/22

A big summer of change at The Thorn Athletic Sports Academy commenced in the best possible fashion: A change to the trophy cabinet with the addition of the Presidents Cup. Thorn Athletic’s latest honour was their reward for what was a physically exerting end of season schedule and their Presidents Cup heroics only added to their already chaotic calendar. Score draws were the Johnstone outfit’s major undoing in their league campaign, with the Thorn finishing in third place in the Caledonian Premier League – level on fifty-one points with second place Glasgow Harp and four points behind champions Dumbarton FP.


However, despite their league campaign fizzling out slightly in the closing few matches of the season, Thorn Athletic would ensure that the 2021/22 season would be defined by their first Presidents Cup win. After safely negotiating a potentially difficult opening group phase involving Westerlands, St. Mungos and Milton, Dean Scott inspired the Thorn into the Presidents Cup final after his semi-final brace against Cambria proved to be the difference in a 4-2 victory.


The final was finely poised and the margin for error was slim as Thorn Athletic made the short trip to Renfrew to take on familiar opponents East Kilbride YM in front of a healthy support. The two sides could only be separated by one place and two points in the Caledonian Premier League and a tightly contested, cagey Presidents Cup final only further illustrated just how closely matched these two sides are. After the final full-time whistle of the season, it was Thorn Athletic who were celebrating however, as they edged the match 1-0 thanks to an early goal from defender Joe Rae after a deep delivery from a wide free-kick caused chaos in the East Kilbride YM six yard box. After some brief pinball in the box the club’s Players’ player of the year, Joe Rae, prodded the ball into the back of the net for what proved to be the decisive goal of the game.


East Kilbride YM started the game on the front foot and could’ve easily been ahead in the opening minutes when Thorn Athletic goalkeeper Ryan Ward was forced to make a terrific 1v1 save as the East Kilbride YM striker burst through on goal. The early pressure continued from the resulting corner when the South Lanarkshire side had a header cleared off the line. That defensive resilience became a recurring theme after the Thorn took the lead as they dug in deep and limited their opponents to mainly half chances in the second half. Thorn Athletic posed a constant threat on the counterattack and could’ve made things easier for themselves going into the final stages of the game with some better decision making in the final third as East Kilbride YM desperately chased an equaliser.


It was an equaliser that never really looked like coming and, in the end, a combination of outstanding goalkeeping, committed defending, timely finishing and determination was enough to secure silverware for the Thorn. It was always going to be a chaotic season with Scottish Amateur football trying to stabilise itself in a post-covid landscape, but for Thorn Athletic the summer offseason doesn’t look like it will be any quieter. The club will now begin to enter the next phase of its evolution and thanks to their 2021/22 Presidents Cup victory they’ll be doing it on a high.


THORN ATHLETIC’S adult team have agreed a new sponsorship deal with Colliers Bar in the town centre.


It is an exciting new chapter for the team who had previously been based at the Thorn Inn for nearly two decades.


But now the team are ready to kickstart a new relationship with Colliers, which has undergone a positive transformation in recent years under new owner Jamie Robertson and his family.


The deal will see the team return there after matches for hospitality and host away teams when they visit the town. And the team will also look to support the business at other times and encourage their supporters, friends and family to visit.




And the pub, which serves food all week and shows all major sporting events, has already made the team welcome by creating a space for them where they can sit together.


And Mr Robertson said: “We are happy to welcome the team to the pub and to be able to support them by putting something back into a local voluntary and community organisation.


“Our family has been involved in running pubs for many years and we have a record of supporting teams when we can.”


And team secretary Mark McGee said: “We are looking forward to building up our relationship with Colliers and making it a new base for the team.


“We would like to thank Jamie, Rosemary and all the staff for making us feel welcome and hopefully this will be beneficial for us both in the years to come.”


Thorn Athletic atoned for their recent Scottish Cup disappointment at the hands of Cowie Thistle by securing their progression through to the next round of the Douglas Smith League Cup last Saturday. Although the 3-2 scoreline and patchy performance against Westerlands may not have been the reaction that Thorn Athletic head coach Johnny McEwan would have ideally hoped for, the result was the priority and ensures that the Thorn’s wait for their first win of 2022 is over.

The Thorn controlled the possession throughout the first half and a brace from Callum Kelly meant that they had a commanding lead to show for their territorial dominance at the interval. Westerlands provided a constant threat throughout the first half despite their lack of possession, with the Thorn struggling to deal with their direct approach and physicality in the final third. However, they were left frustrated by an inspired first half performance from Thorn shot stopper Ryan Ward, whose first half performance was typified by an outstanding double save from a penalty kick and the subsequent rebound after the referee pointed to the spot for a handball offence.

The second half followed a similar pattern, but Westerlands were not as wasteful in the second period and halved the deficit just six minutes after the restart. It looked possible that the momentum of the game could change in favour of Westerlands, but Thorn Athletic restored their two-goal lead almost immediately when Cameron Armstrong converted a cross from the left flank from a tight angle. Thorn Athletic invited Westerlands back into the match with twenty minutes remaining after their failure to clear a loose ball in the box resulted in a second goal for the home side, but they couldn’t find an equalizer due to some disciplined defending from the Thorn in the final stages.

There was a lot for Johnny McEwan and his coaching staff to unpack after Saturday’s five goal thriller in Glasgow. Although there were undoubtedly some creases to iron out in the aftermath of the match, there was a lot for McEwan to feel enthused about – particularly in the offensive third of the pitch.

McEwan said: “We certainly were not anywhere near the levels we can reach but in cup football it’s just about getting through on the day and that was all that matters. However, we are under no illusions that we need to improve.

“We changed things up a little bit at the top end of the park and it was pleasing to see both Callum and Cammy get on the scoresheet. They both took their goals well and hopefully that will give them confidence and they can build on the performances. There was always the chance of a bit of a hangover after going out of the Scottish Cup so it was vital we done enough to get through and we can now move on.”

Focus now turns to Saturday’s home fixture against St. Mungos in the Caledonian Premier League as the Thorn look to pick up their first league win since November. The incentive couldn’t be clearer for McEwan and his side, who could climb to fourth in the league standings and move eight points clear of Saturday’s opponents with a victory.

McEwan added “We’ve been playing catch-up in the league due to cup runs but now we have to get ourselves back in the mix again. The top end of the table is looking very competitive, and we cannot afford to be at anything other than our best for this one.

“We suffered our first league defeat just before Christmas but other than that we had been doing pretty well all things considered. We have started to get one or two boys back from longer term injuries so hopefully that bodes well going into the second half of the season.”

The Auld Game Comes To Johnstone

Everyone at the Thorn Athletic Sports Academy was delighted to host a special screening of Scottish Director Sammy Andie Bennett’s latest feature, The Auld Game, earlier this month. The Auld Game provides a potted history of Scottish football and showcases some of the landmark moments and influential trendsetters that helped shape our national sport. An expansive library of archive footage is accompanied by contextualising narration provided by director and editor Sammy Andie Bennett, as well as music by Stornoway-born Celtic punk band Peat and Diesel.

This was the first screening of this type at the Thorn Athletic Sports Academy, and we were thrilled to be one of the host venues for the documentary’s nationwide tour that has helped it gain significant exposure, particularly in the grassroots football landscape. It was the ideal way to end what has been another landmark year at the Thorn Athletic Sports Academy, as audience members were welcomed by tea, coffee and snacks before taking their seats and enjoying the show.

Be sure to keep an eye on the upcoming events at your local community or sports hub to see if The Auld Game is being screened near you, or get a brief preview of what you can expect from the film by viewing the trailer below:


Cup Progression Secured

THORN ATHLETIC edged past Meadowbank AFC from the Edinburgh and Lothian Amateur Premier Division on Saturday after a competitive contest ended with the match being decided by a penalty shootout. Thorn goalkeeper Ryan Ward (featured image) was the hero as he saved the side from the capital’s decisive fifth penalty to send the Thorn through to the fifth round.

Thorn Athletic opened the scoring through a familiar source when Muir McCluskey set up John Martin to score his fourth goal in two games following his hat-trick against Cambria in the Thorn’s last league outing. It is the sixth goal that Martin has been directly involved in throughout the Thorn’s last three games and it came at a crucial time to put his side in the ascendancy just after the hour mark. Nobody on the pitch would have been more relieved to see the ball hit the back of the net than club captain Ryan Crawford, who uncharacteristically missed a golden opportunity to give his side the lead from the penalty spot in the first half.

However, it wasn’t enough to see out the game as a last-gasp equaliser from the visitors ensured that a combative cup tie would be settled by penalty kicks. After nine successful conversions from twelve yards, Thorn goalkeeper Ryan Ward produced the match winning save from Meadowbank’s fifth penalty to send the Thorn through and put the penalty shootout defeat suffered at the hands of Campsie Minerva in the West of Scotland cup in mid-October firmly behind them. Thorn Athletic manager Johnny McEwan could have done without the crippling nerves that come with watching on from the touchline as a week’s worth of preparation comes down to a penalty shootout but highlighted the importance of having a reliable presence between the posts for the spot kicks.

Boss Johnny McEwan said: “It was nervier than it had to be in the end, but the most important thing is that we are through. We had been doing pretty well until a flashpoint in the final ten minutes that seemed to disrupt our concentration and led to us conceding an equaliser.”

McEwan added: “At one nil they were always in the game, but we really should have put the tie to bed much earlier. We missed a penalty and a couple of other gilt-edged opportunities. We were also the walking wounded at the end after having to make all our subs, so it was a nervous time going into the shootout but thankfully Wardy made the save when it mattered and that’s all that matters now.”

Progression into the next round would have been the target at the start of the match for both sides but both teams managed to contribute to a very competitive cup tie despite both having ongoing injury problems. With Meadowbank only able to bring a squad of twelve players to the match and Thorn Athletic having to use all their available substitutes. It’s back to league business for the Thorn on Saturday as they travel to face Dalziel in the Caledonian Premier League, but they do so knowing that they will be in a national cup competition after the festive break and manager Johhny McEwan is content with the progress his side are making as they look to make it five wins in a row on Saturday.

McEwan said: “This is a huge match for us to keep us right in the hunt. The squad is under a bit of pressure but that means guys need to step up to the plate. We are likely to be in Scottish Cup action the first weekend after the festive break so it’s vital we keep the momentum going. Considering what we have been up against the first half of the season with injury and selection problems, we have to be happy with where we are at.”


THORN ATHLETIC picked up a fully merited victory in their Caledonian Premier League match against Glasgow University on Saturday, with the three points being more than welcomed by players and staff alike after an enforced month-long hiatus from league action due to unplayable playing surfaces and cup commitments. An Ian Paterson goal was sandwiched in between a Jordan Verracchia brace to put the Thorn 3-0 up going into the second period and the three goals coming within an eight-minute spell appeared to dishearten Glasgow University, who never really looked like fashioning a route back into the game during the second half.

Muir McCluskey rounded off the scoring just twelve minutes into the second half by making it 4-0 after latching onto an inspired pass from John Martin, who grabbed his second assist of the game and helped propel his side up to third place in the table. Thorn Athletic manager Johnny McEwan was relieved to get some league points on the board and was keen to highlight how much the contribution of the entire team played in securing a comfortable victory.

McEwan said following the win: “We were excellent in the first half and put the game to bed pretty quickly after getting the breakthrough. We missed a few good chances early on and it made you wonder if it was going to be our day, but when we got our noses in front we kicked on. We got a lot of joy down the left-hand side in the first half through John Martin and that led to a couple of goals.”

McEwan added: “Second half we huffed and puffed a bit which meant we only added another one to the tally, but it was good to get back to winning ways in the league. What was equally as pleasing for us was to keep a clean sheet, the defence have been playing well and hopefully it continues.”

The Thorn will be aiming to make it a positive end to what has been a fixture bare November during this Saturday’s away trip to face Cambria. They’ll have ambitions of making it three league wins in a row as they look to continue their ascent up the league table. Although McEwan expects a tough encounter against a Cambria side that will be eager to bounce back from their 3-2 defeat to Glasgow Harp in their previous league fixture.

Ahead of this weekend’s match McEwan added: “We need to get a bit of momentum going again, especially ahead of our Scottish Cup fourth round tie the week after. Cambria are dangerous opposition but hopefully if we can keep our levels up then we can get another good result. Cambria also had a free week last week so they will be fresh. We have Dean Scott available again after suspension and a few of the injuries are starting to clear up so fingers crossed.”


THORN ATHLETIC welcome Langlee Amateurs from the Border Amateur Football League A League to the Thorn Athletic Sports Academy on Saturday for a Scottish Amateur Cup third round tie, with the game’s 3 o’clock kick-off not coming soon enough for both sides who have both had disrupted league campaigns due to cup commitments and adverse weather conditions.


The Thorn come into the match off the back of a 2-1 friendly win over Vale of Clyde in Coatbridge last Saturday. A fixture that was arranged to maintain momentum and match sharpness following the postponement of the Caledonian Premier League fixture that was scheduled to take place that day against Glasgow University. Two goals from Connar McGregor ensured that the Thorn came away from North Lanarkshire with the desired result, but head coach Johnny McEwan is fully aware of the increased stakes attached to this Saturday’s contest.


McEwan said: “This is our biggest game of the season so far and going on a run in the Scottish Cup would give everyone a lift. It wasn’t ideal the game being off last week, but the weather was horrendous, and we did eventually manage to get a run out for some of the squad. But the focus is now firmly on getting through to the fourth round.”


Langlee Amateur’s Borders Cup final did not suffer the same fate as the Thorn’s scheduled competitive fixture and Langlee took full advantage of that in what proved to be a very productive afternoon for them. Langlee’s 2-0 victory over Greenlaw secured their first piece of silverware of the season, with star striker Des Sutherland grabbing a brace and making it seven goals in his last three outings in the process.


The cup competitions have been a great source of comfort for Langlee this season due to them only being able to fulfil two league fixtures so far this season, which is the lowest in the Border Amateur Football League’s top division. So, McEwan is fully prepared to encounter a team that is in high spirits after last weekend’s Border Cup triumph.


McEwan added: “”We don’t know much about Langlee, but they seem to be in very good form as their recent cup win would suggest. So, they are going to be dangerous opponents. We will have to be right on it in order to get through.”


McEwan will have to do some reshuffling in the final third from their victory over Kilmarnock Amateurs in the previous round, however, with Dean Scott unavailable after an unorthodox red card in the match in Ayrshire in second round after receiving a second yellow card in the aftermath of a goal celebration. Injury problems also continue to beset the team with Ross Horne, Dylan Blair, Andy Collins, Paul Jamieson and George Mavezah all ruled out.


THORN ATHLETIC captain Ryan Crawford has been selected for the Scotland Amateur National Squad after his displays in the heart of midfield.


Crawford’s performances have not gone unnoticed, and he was one of 30 players from throughout Scotland that perform under the Scottish Amateur Football Association umbrella to play in a Scottish select match at Dalziel Park on Sunday.

Crawford said: “It was great to be included again and it was a good competitive match.

It’s great to get the chance again as I’ve been involved in several squads before, and it gives you and everyone involved a boost.”

Although adverse weather conditions have meant it has been an inconsistent playing schedule lately for Thorn Athletic, performance levels have remained largely consistent, with just one defeat in all competitions this season and an unbeaten start to their Caledonian Premier League campaign.

Ryan Crawford has been integral to the Thorn’s impressive form this season and although he has been in and around the Scotland Amateur Squad setup for a few years now, he’s aware of the scale of his achievement and how it reflects on the work being done by his coaches and teammates at Thorn Athletic.

Crawford added: “Hopefully I can continue my involvement as it’s good for both myself and Thorn Athletic.”

The Scotland Amateur Squad are also in a strong place following their first workout of the season. The team manager Colin MacLeod was impressed by the commitment and intensity on display by his squad on Sunday.

MacLeod said: “It was an excellent first workout of the season at Dalziel Park. We only had two withdrawals due to injury which was great, and it was an entertaining game.”



On Tuesday, October 26 Renfrewshire Council’s Communities, Housing & Planning Board approved funding of £50,000 to our organisation from their Community Empowerment Fund to facilitate the overhaul of our community pitch at the Thorn Athletic Sports Academy.


This award comes on top of £5,000 previously secured from the Big Lottery Awards for All scheme.


The organisation currently provides football and related programmes to more than 500 people ranging from 3-5 years through to Over 35s and Walking Football.


In addition, the Thorn Athletic Sports Academy hosts a wide variety of other activities for the surrounding community that make is central to the wellbeing of thousands of people in Johnstone and the wider Renfrewshire area.


Chairperson Mark McGee said: “This is fantastic news for our organisation and a defining moment for our future development plans.


“This funding will allow us to overhaul our grass pitch and install a top-class playing surface complete with an extensive and fit-for-purpose drainage system that will take our facilities to a completely new level.


“The scope of works will eliminate the longstanding issues with the pitch, improve the durability of the surface and also allow us to develop new areas and bring more space into use for the benefit of our users.


“It is also a clear signal of our intent to move towards a full community asset transfer of the former McMaster Centre facility. We have successfully turned this into a thriving place for all manner of football and related fitness and socially engaging activities for the community.



“Our executive committee are absolutely determined to develop our project, facilities and the area around us into something that everyone can be proud of and benefit from.


“We already have funds in place to install a perimeter fence around the area to protect the facilities and with a new pitch now also in the pipeline, these are hugely exciting times for Thorn Athletic.



“We are grateful for the continued support of Renfrewshire Council, the Scottish Football Association, Engage Renfrewshire and all our other partner organisations.”


Thorn Athletic will soon be announcing new opportunities for the local business community to engage with the project and for new specialised committee roles as they develop the capacity of the organisation and put in place new infrastructure.


Anyone who wishes to play a part should contact [email protected]