PARTICK Thistle were many people’s tip for relegation at the start of the season, as they have been for the previous three Premiership campaigns.
As they’ve done since they returned to Scotland’s top flight in 2013, they’ve survived the drop to the Championship and even avoided the dreaded playoff scenario. The big difference this season, however, is that Partick have done more than just stay up – they have guaranteed a top six position.
Given their resources, rumoured to have the second lowest budget in the League, Thistle’s achievement has been remarkable and their form since just before Christmas, when they were bottom of the table, has been tremendous, where they are currently 8 games without defeat and are without doubt one of the form teams in the country along with Celtic and Aberdeen.
For manager Alan Archibald, it highlights significantly what a fine job he is doing at Firhill and, justifiably, has seen some tip him as a candidate for manager of the year. Archibald doesn’t have a great deal of resources to work with, even compared to some of the bottom six sides, but he’s gone about his business quietly and mounded a decent side good enough to take the only position that guarantees survival in the top flight, given how tight it’s been between the bottom seven teams this season.
Realistically, there was only one top six position open this season with the Old Firm, Aberdeen, Hearts and St Johnstone more or less guaranteed the other five slots before a ball was kicked, and Partick have done very well to sneak into that sixth spot and not let it slip.
Whilst Archibald has limited resources, he has used them wisely to build a decent team built around five key players. Goalkeeper Tomas Cerny has been a solid keeper all season, often making crucial saves at key points in games that have propelled Partick up the table. Liam Lindsay’s rock solid defensive performances have seen him linked with a Scotland call-up and Adam Barton has been a revelation in centre midfield. Chris Erskine, in his third spell at the club, and Kris Dolan have been the main source of goals with 21 goals between them, the latter having notched his 100th Thistle goal in the process.
The main credit, however, must go to Alan Archibald. Earlier in the season, there was a small section of the Thistle support who thought he should be sacked, some saying things had gone stale under his stewardship and that a fresh approach was needed. Luckily, the board saw sense and stuck by a man who’d kept the club in the top flight for the previous three years and have reaped the rewards of a guaranteed best League finish in 32 years.
Who’s to say Partick Thistle will be the whipping boys for the fellow top six sides? They’ve proven all season that they’re a tough nut to crack, with only Aberdeen and St Johnstone clocking up League wins against the Jags since Christmas. Whilst more high profile clubs have struggled for consistency, Partick have gone quietly about their business and now have the guarantee of a fifth campaign in the top flight, their longest stint since the early 1980’s.
Given the erratic form of Hearts, there is every chance that Thistle could finish in fifth position though anything above that looks unlikely given the gap to make up on St Johnstone.
Whether they finish fifth or sixth, Partick Thistle can be immensely proud of their Premiership campaign and they’ve survived a relegation battle in the best possible way. They can only hope that clubs down south don’t come after their manager too soon because the way Alan Archibald has quietly gone about his business at Firhill won’t have gone unnoticed elsewhere.