JACKIE McNAMARA admits he has a selection headache on his hands as Partick Thistle get set for their first competitive action of the new season.
After an encouraging summer on and off the field at Firhill – four new arrivals and a string of impressive pre-season performances have boosted expectations – hopes are high that the Jags could be set for a campaign to remember.
First up is a Ramsdens Cup clash with Irn-Bru Third Division side Clyde at Recreation Park, Alloa, tomorrow afternoon, and McNamara knows he will have a tough job to narrow his squad down to a starting XI after a series of creditable close-season performances from his new-look side.
He said: "It will be a difficult game for us. Jim Duffy and Chic Charnley will be looking to get one over on us, and it is a derby as well. We have to make sure we are professional and focused and carry on from the levels we have shown in pre-season. We want good, high, energy levels.
"We have good competition right across the squad, and we want all the players to push each other on.
"There are a lot of hard decisions for me, firstly to pick the starting eleven and then to pick the subs and decide who misses out altogether.
"It is up to the ones that start to make sure they stay in the team. That is the incentive they have got now. We are not just relying on the same guys.
"We have got a good squad and every one of them is pushing for a starting place. It is a good problem for me to have. The players have to keep their levels of performance high to stay in the team and keep the other guys on the sidelines."
With their ARR Craib Cup triumph still fresh in the memory, Thistle will head into the Clyde clash in buoyant mood as they attempt to get the new season off and running in positive fashion.
The Jags suffered an early setback last year as they crashed to a League Cup defeat to Berwick early in the campaign, and McNamara expects his side to be in top gear from the first whistle. He said: "We know what to expect from Clyde but, as I say to the players, it is about what we do that matters.
"If we play how we set ourselves up, and want to and show that determination and desire, then we will be okay.
"If we go through the motions and wait for someone else to make something happen, then we are in for a difficult afternoon.
"Hopefully the players still here from last year have learned from the Berwick loss and, with guys like Hugh Murray coming in, that will help add a bit of experience."
The only negative factor ahead of their Ramsdens opener is the absence of midfield stalwart David Rowson, with the veteran set to miss out on the opening fixture due to a back problem.
McNamara said: "David is the only concern we have at the moment and will probably miss out.
"He missed both the games against Celtic and Everton with a back problem.
"He has had a scan so we just need to wait and see how it settles down and what the damage is. I don't know how long he will be out for. We will assess it with the physio and not rush him back."