LIKE Partick Thistle, Stuart Bannigan has come a long way in a short space of time.

And now the Jags youngster is determined to keep progressing on the field and helping the Premiership club grow off it as they set their sights on a bright Firhill future.

Despite only being 21, Bannigan is the third longest-serving player on the Thistle books, behind striker Kris Doolan and keeper Ryan Scully, and this week put pen to paper on a new deal to keep him at the club until May 2016.

Since making his Jags bow four years ago, the midfielder has gone on to win international recognition for the Scotland Under-21s, helped Alan Archibald's side to the First Division title and played a key role in keeping them in the top flight.

Bannigan is one of the brightest young talents in our game and the Thistle star is confident there will be plenty more to come from him and the Firhill side in years to come.

He said: "The club has changed a lot since I joined the YTS a few years ago.

"It was crazy back then. The year before, there were only five young players and now we have got a full squad here.

"The club has really progressed. There were times when there were only 2000-odd fans at games in the First Division.

"Now the club is a lot bigger, a lot has improved and we are playing in front of big crowds in the Premiership.

"It is great to see how it has progressed in a couple of years and we want to keep that going next season.

"We will see how we go at the start of the year and how things are looking.

"We have a quiet confidence about ourselves that we can improve next season. We won't put a target position on it, but we want to keep improving.

"The aim for this year was to stay in the league and that is what we have done. Now we want to get bigger and better.

"There is more room for improvement and room for us to grow further.

"From the manager's point of view, I am sure he will want to keep the nucleus of this squad together for as long as possible."

Bannigan's new Firhill deal is just reward for a fine campaign that saw him shine at the heart of the Thistle midfield in another season to remember for the Jags.

He firmly established himself as a Premiership player as Archibald's side finished tenth on their return to Scotland's top flight. And he is eager to go one step better next time around as thoughts turn to the second season at this level.

BANNIGAN said: "I am looking forward to getting a good pre-season this summer. That didn't really happen for me at the start of this season.

"I got injured early on, I did the first week of training and then got injured in the bounce game against Airdrie.

"That was a big blow because I don't feel I was where I should have been.

"Hopefully I can get a good pre-season this time and really go into the new season flying and hit the ground running.

"We really need to learn to see out games. There have been too many times where we were leading and threw away poor goals and dropped points.

"It was our first year and we had a lot of boys that had never played at this level before. We will be better for the experience of this year and better prepared for next season."