Football, for the most part, is back. It’s obvious though that a lot has changed. Fans not allowed into grounds, COVID tests, cancelled games, the list goes on. One thing that is different this year is that Partick Thistle Football Club find themselves competing in the 3rd tier of Scottish football, which considering in 2017 they finished in the top six of the Premiership, it’s quite a decline.
The circumstances surrounding their most recent relegation are well documented. A largely controversial decision saw relegation and promotion be honoured amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. This saw Heart of Midlothian, Partick Thistle and Stranraer relegated and Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers promoted. Lengthy appeals took place but eventually the original decision stood. Was it a fair one? Probably not, many other leagues were able to find fairer solutions, involving playoff games or restarts of leagues. However, it was decided at a point when no one had a clear idea of what was going to happen so I can see why it happened. You do though, have to feel bad for the fans of the clubs relegated.
Now why am I explaining something that happened a mere few months ago and it is still fresh in everyone’s mind? Well, Partick Thistle have had, it’s safe to say, a difficult time as of late. However, I believe that if they play their cards correctly, it could be exactly what the club needs. Firstly, the fans should look at the manner in which they were relegated not as a bad thing but as an excuse, for all they were technically relegated the amount of mitigating circumstances leave the Thistle faithful plenty of excuses for why they find themselves in League One. What it has done is given them an opportunity to turn themselves around properly because, to put it bluntly, they’ve been rubbish lately. They had found themselves in a relegation battle with Queen of the South anyway, which had they won and managed to stay up, I’m not convinced that this season would be much different.
The cracks have been showing for years. Poor management both in first team managers (Alan Archibald, Gary Caldwell) and the board, the decision made that saw Gary Caldwell stay at the club for far longer than he deserved, a signing policy that was all over the shop. Each transfer window seemed like a time to attempt to patch a few holes and not an attempt to seriously turn the club around. It was almost like the classic cartoon skit where the character finds himself trying to hold back water with more holes in the surface than hands to cover the holes with.
Partick Thistle have had a great opportunity handed to them to rebuild the club and make a serious push back to the Premiership. The Championship is too cut throat a league to rebuild to the extent that Thistle need. They have a squad strong enough to compete at the top of the table this year and a manager with experience doing the exact thing that they need. Look at Ayr United and Greenock Morton, both relegated down to League 1 for a season, went down, rebuilt and now cemented in the Championship, with Ayr United consistently battling for a playoff spot.
What they have to do is stick with Ian McCall and back him. They need to establish a transfer policy that doesn’t rely on being saved by an ex-Premiership striker who is well past their hay-day. The signings they have made indicates that they are moving in the right direction. Salim Kouder-Aissa on loan from Livingston is a great example of that, as is Blair Lyons finally joining the side. These are the sort of moves that they need to come back up.
In terms of their signing policy there is a long way to go and, in my opinion, still some deadwood they need to offload, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. It’s also fair to say that they have a wealth of experience on the side too. The likes of Brian Graham, Richard Foster, Stuart Bannigan and Thomas O’Ware (through gritted teeth with that one) all have plenty of experience in and around League One and above, combined with the younger players they have such as James Penrice and Jamie Sneddon, who can learn from the experience but also build experience in the division, it’s difficult to look past Partick Thistle in regards to having the strongest squad in the division.
Do I think they will win the league this year? I think so yes. Although it won’t be as easy as they might think, especially with Falkirk also in the division and looking to make their way back up. If they avoid complacency with Ian McCall in charge and the squad they do have, it’s hard not to look past them coming back up this year.
Gav was joined by Euan Robertson and Colin Cunningham to preview the League 1 season. You can listen to that on all good podcast listening services.