CHRIS ERSKINE admits the next three games are crucial for Partick Thistle's Premiership survival bid.
Alan Archibald's side head into their Firhill clash with Hearts today two points clear of St Mirren as the battle to beat the drop enters the home stretch this term.
The Jags will then face Kilmarnock and St Mirren in the first fortnight after the top- flight split this month.
And forward Erskine is determined to get the points on the board early to give Thistle the best chance of retaining their Premiership place and build for a bright future.
He said: "I don't know how many points it will take to be honest. The next three games are massive for us I think.
"If we can beat Hearts we then play Kilmarnock and St Mirren, who are below us.
"It depends on the other teams' results. But the next three are massive and we will see where we are after that.
"I am sure the aim would have been to stay in the league no matter what this year. It is a shame that the play-offs have come in the year we have gone up.
"It is a good achievement to stay in the league.
"The budget we had last year to get up to this league was small and I am sure it is the same again.
"We had no experience of this league and I am sure the boys have learned a lot from playing in it. If we stay up, it is a brilliant season."
He went on: "I think we could build next season if we stay up.
"Seeing out games was a problem here at the start of the season but that has got better in the last few months.
"At the start of the season, we weren't seeing games out and that is something you learn from being in the division."
Even if Thistle do succumb to relegation and drop out of the Premiership this term, Erskine still has a shot of playing top-flight football next season when he returns to Dundee United.
The winger was an integral part of the First Division- winning side last year and is eager to end his second Firhill stint on a high note.
Erskine said: "I feel the same as the rest of the boys. Before I moved on, I had four great years here. I helped them get up to the Premiership last year so I want to see them stay up as much as anyone else.
"I am sure we will be fine. We have enough in the dressing room to see us through.
"I haven't really thought about next season. It is not in my hands, it is up to Jackie McNamara at the end of the day. As far as I know, I am going back up there for pre-season and I will take it from there. If Jackie wants me to stay I will stay and if he doesn't I will move on."
While Thistle are still fighting for their Premiership place, Hearts' relegation will be confirmed if they fail to win at Firhill today.
But Erskine has been impressed with the way the Jambos have battled in the face of adversity this season.
He said: "I didn't think they would go down without a fight. They have got a lot of young boys there and everyone expected them to go down right away.
"They have done well. They will be asking what it would have been like if they hadn't had the points deduction."