Partick Thistle without Colin Weir is a scary thought, says Gerry Britton
Even in his final moments, Partick Thistle was with Colin Weir.
An invitation for Gerry Britton to see the major shareholder was not an unusual one for the Firhill chief executive. Lunches and laughter with legendary former goalkeeper Alan Rough had illuminated days with their host, forensic chats about grass-roots football and the latest goings on in Maryhill were regular between Britton and the club's benefactor.
Yet, while the conversation rarely strayed from familiar topics, this visit was different. It would be the last one.
"I spoke to him in hospital the day before he died, he was still a man that was sharp," Britton told BBC Scotland.
"Although you knew he was gravely ill, he didn't look like someone that was going to pass away. It was still a shock.
"Thistle were a huge part of his life. He loved to know everything that was going on even though he wasn't here as much as he'd like."
'It's a scary thought where we would be without him'
That call came in darkest December, just days after Christmas and days before the dawning of a year that offered - and still does - so much hope to Thistle fans because of the Euromillions winner's generosity.
Only a month earlier, the 72-year-old, who won £161m in 2011 with wife Chris, had completed his takeover of his club through his Three Black Cats group in preparation for handing his shares over to supporters in March. It was just the latest act of benevolence from a man who had poured a fortune into Thistle, including founding the Thistle Weir Academy which has already produced players like Liam Lindsay and Aidan Fitzpatrick with healthy sell-ons included.
Britton acknowledges it was a legacy Weir was keen to create for himself but, most importantly, for his beloved Thistle.
"It's pretty straightforward to say we would be really struggling," he said when asked where the club would be without his generosity.
"The whole development of the club he impacted on. One of the first things he did was he felt our office didn't look like a club with the standing it should have had, so he funded the upgrade of the decor.
"I genuinely think, if it hadn't been for him, it would be a scary thought where we could be sitting just now.
"His backing has been resolute at a time when it was really tough to find finances for longer-term projects like a youth academy. In the last couple of years, financially, we have reaped the benefits."
'It was symbolic we brought him back one last time'
While his death became the priority as his family, friends and supporters grieved, the club understandably dismissed any talk of what Weir's passing may mean for his dream of returning Thistle to the people who shared his passion for the Jags.
"The plan hasn't changed, it's just the timing that we may have to look at," Britton said. "The fans' working group has been working away behind the scenes.
"There's been nothing intimated to us to alter the strategies that Colin had set out and we will continue to follow the instructions. The instructions we have is to continue as we had been towards the proposed March date."
A small smile breaks across Britton's face when asked for his fondest memories of Weir, who made his final visit to Firhill on Tuesday as his funeral cortege drove by the ground.
Sitting deep inside the stadium's main stand now bearing Weir's name, where fans will gather on Saturday for the visit of holders Celtic in the Scottish Cup, the Thistle chief executive manages to summon a response.
"It's been a very emotional time," he said. "We had been speaking to him in the weeks before his death and he had planned to come to the Dundee United game. That would have been the first time since he purchased the club.
"He didn't make that. I thought it was symbolic that we brought him back one last time."
He added: "I had some great afternoons with him. I went with Alan Rough to have lunch and seeing his face listening to Roughy's usual patter. I remember going with [former Thistle striker] Kris Doolan, who can talk the hind legs off a donkey, but Colin loved it.
"We would tell him about the academy. You could see the pride and satisfaction in his face hearing about kids from around here with not the best background being taken to Benfica, training camps to Turkey.
"That was all down to him."