PAUL PATON today tipped midfielder Sean Welsh to fill Paul Cairney's boots after he completed his move to Scottish Premier League side Hibernian.
The 24-year-old put pen-to-paper on a two-year deal at Easter Road yesterday after rejecting an offer to extend his stay at Firhill this summer.
Cairney was the standout performer for Jackie McNamara's side last season as he led the scoring charts and collected the club's Player of the Year award.
His loss is a major blow to Thistle but Paton reckons Welsh could be the man to step into his old friend's boots.
Welsh has come along the M8 after being told he had no future in Leith by boss Pat Fenlon and will now look to establish himself as a first team regular and build on his impressive loan spell in Glasgow last season.
Paton said: "It is a big blow for us to lose Cairney. He was the biggest character in the dressing room and a major player on the pitch.
"I have known Paul since I was 10, he is one of my best mates. I will be gutted that he is not there and he will be a big miss for me but someone else will have to step up and fill that void in the dressing room and chip in with the goals.
"He will certainly be a big miss. I think Welsy might well be the man to step up. If we can get him on the ball and let him go forward and create then he could have a big impact for us.
"He has definitely got the ability, he showed last year how good a player he is. To be honest, he surprised me when he came in last season because I didn't realise how good he was.
"I was impressed with him last year so hopefully it can be a big season for him."
Welsh, of course, is just one of four signings McNamara has made this summer as he builds his squad for a shot at Irn-Bru First Division glory next time out.
Hugh Murray, Steven Lawless and Aaron Muirhead have also signed up at Firhill ahead of the big kick-off.
And Paton reckons the Jags squad is in good shape as they continue their pre-season prepara-tions at their army base in Catterick this week.
He said: "We have had most of our squad tied up for a few weeks now and we have brought in a few players as well.
"I think Hugh Murray will be a great signing for us and we have two talented youngsters in Steven and Aaron as well. They are young boys with a lot of bright years ahead of them."