Feature: Season Preview – Partick Thistle

By Keiran Fleming

Following relegation last term, things didn’t exactly go to plan for Partick Thistle. They stayed in the Championship, which looked questionable at times, and now Gary Caldwell will be using that platform to attempt to mount a bid to go back up to the Premiership – afterall, you’d expect that from a side who finished in the top six of the highest tier in Scotland just three seasons ago. 

We spoke to Jags fan Ewan (@Esptfc1876 On Twitter) to get some insight into the club. 

The Jags first season in the Championship after being relegated was a disappointing one. Thistle finished 6th last season which marks how much of a rebuild is needed. So far this summer the team has undergone some major surgery. The transfer window has 12 players leave the club and 9 new faces join the maryhill side. The question is whether this complete reshuffle proves to be a good move or a bad move? 

Ewan told us last season simply not acceptable for a club such as Thistle, he said:

Last season was well below expectations with Scott McDonald’s performances the only real factor in us staying in the league.”

The problem for Thistle last year was the lack of goals. There top scorer, Blair Spittal, scored 7 goals which is dismal. It looks even worse for the Jags considering that both their top scorers, Spittal and Doolan, have moved on. However, the club has brought in 3 forwards on a permanent basis.

Lewis Mansell has been signed by Thistle on a permanent basis after he impressed in the second half of the season whilst on loan from Blackburn. The 21 year old had 3 goal contributions in 11 appearances last year and looks as though he will already beat that total with 2 assists so far in 4 appearances. The Englishman is still young and could prove to be a very good signing for the Jags.

The second forward to make their way to Maryhill is Alex Jones from Bradford. With the club in desperate need of a prolific goalscorer the signing of the 24 year old seems very questionable. Jones has only once scored more than 10 goals in a season in fact he has also only once made 20 appearances during the course of a season. Last season Jones was on loan to league 2 side Cambridge United where he only scored 1 goal in 12 games. Throughout his career he has only been able score 32 goals in 119 appearances which is a shocking output for a striker. 

The third and most interesting addition to Thistle’s frontline is Kenny Miller. The striker brings bags of experience to the Jags. However, at the age of 39 it is fair to say that Miller is now on his last legs. The last time that he was able to get his goal tally into double digits was the 2016/17 season with 14. It will be interesting to see how the veteran performs in the championship whether he is able to tear the league apart or if his age shows. 

Thistle also lost Cammy Bell at the end of the season to Falkirk but they brought in experienced keeper Scott Fox from last season’s championship winners Ross County. The 32 year old kept 14 clean sheets in 36 appearances last season showing that he is a significant upgrade on Bell who only managed to keep 2 clean sheets. Fox is also a great leader and knows how to communicate with his backline.

The Jags have lost the only quality they had on the wings with Spittal leaving for promoted side Ross County. This led to Thistle recruiting 2 wingers during the Summer transfer window, Rafa De Vita on loan from Livingston and Mitch Austin from Sydney FC.

De Vita was part of the Livingston side that got promoted from the Championship through the play offs during the 2017-18 season. The 31 year old appeared 40 times during that season and had 12 goal contributions to his name. The Italian suffered a serious knee injury which saw him miss most of the 2018-19 campaign. If De Vita remains fit he should provide an abundance of Championship experience to the Maryhill side.

Australian Mitch Austin is a riskier transfer for Thistle. The 28 year old has only played 14 games in the last 2 seasons. Austin suffered from an anterior cruciate ligament injury in 2017 and it seems to have hampered him in the following 2 seasons. At the age of 28 and very little gametime under his belt it is highly unlikely that Austin will have a huge impact on the Thistle squad.

Finding players to strengthen the core of their midfield has been key for Thistle this Summer. The signing of 21 year old Shea Gordon seems to be amazing business for the Jags. The Northern Irishman has made 4 appearances and scored 3 times so far this season from the centre of the park. Gordon had already impressed whilst on loan to Maryhill during the second half of last season, scoring 4 in 14 games. The other midfield recruit is Cammy Palmer, who is on loan from Rangers. The 19 year old is highly rated having just signed a new 2 and a half year contract at Ibrox. It will be interesting to see how Palmer deals with his first taste of first team football.

Thistle’s backline also needed strengthening after both Keown and Elliott both left at the end of last season. The Jags have brought in 2 fullbacks so far this Summer, Ryan Williamson from Dunfermline and Tommy Robson from Falkirk. Both signings are 23 years old and have a lot of Championship experience. Williamson played 23 times for Dunfermline last year who finished one position below Partick Thistle. Robson was one of the more impressive players for Falkirk at Left Back even though the Bairns were relegated into League 1. The only weak link left for the Jags to fill in defence would be the centre back position. One more centre back would help completely sure up Thistle’s backline completely.

Ewan feels some of the transfer business done so far is decent, but still needs some more work, he said:

I feel that Caldwell has recruited a decent calibre of player so far with the additions of Fox, Miller, Robson etc but a versatile defender, winger and possibly another striker are required to make sure that we’re competing at the right end of the table this season.”

Partick Thistle as a club should be aiming to get into the play-offs. However, Thistle has not solved it’s goalscoring problem with their recruitment and the majority of their signings have been uninspired. Although the capture Shea Gordon, Cammy Palmer, Ryan Williamson and Tommy Robson are good signings. The rest of the recruitment has been pretty woeful. The Jags are relying on a 39 year old Kenny Miller to put up big goal numbers and 2 wingers who had 12 appearances between them last season. Although they have recruited well at the back and in the core of midfield, their attacking recruitment has left much to be desired.

Ewan told us:

Play-offs are the minimum expectations”

Overall, we feel the lack of attacking prowess could see the Jags remain as a mid table Championship club with very little chance of getting promoted. Of course there is still time left in the window, and one or two of these players could mount a surprise, but on paper, there does appear to be some questionable additions. Even if they do find success this season, some of the arrivals don’t stick out as long term solutions due to age and injury records.

 

 

 

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