Now he can see the light at Partick Thistle.
In the 14 years he has devoted himself to the Firhill club, Archibald has seen it all, experienced the euphoric highs and crushing lows in a career that has seen him secure his place as one of the Jags' all-time greats.
The two latest chapters in the Thistle story have him as the main protagonist, the 36-year-old emerging from the dressing room to take up a seat in the manager's office and transform the fortunes of the club on and off the field.
A year after guiding his side to the First Division title, he has gone one step better and ensured Thistle will be playing SPFL Premiership football for a second consecutive season.
Their final position of 10th didn't tell the whole story of another impressive campaign and there is plenty of scope for improvement as attentions are focused on the immediate and longer-term future at Firhill.
"Things are on the right track from top to bottom," Archibald told SportTimes.
"When we won the league last year, it was probably the first time that everyone here has been pushing in the one direction.
"That has continued this year and it must continue for the club to improve and progress.
"We have got a good product on the pitch just now and we need to keep doing what we are doing.
"We want to get to where the likes of St Johnstone and St Mirren are and there is no reason why we can't.
"We have a good core support and we want to keep increasing the season ticket numbers.
"We do need to improve the home record. If you look back, if we had picked up another two or three wins at home we would have been cruising."
It is matters at first-team level that dominate Archibald's time and will determine his future as Thistle boss but his vision and reach extends far further.
Work is under way to ensure his side are ready for the new Premiership campaign, with a host of players signed up and targets identified.
And Archibald is well aware of the importance of continued success if the club is to grow.
"I don't think we need to change much but we need to keep progressing," he said.
"We have got a good youth set-up in place, our scouting is being put in place as well and we are all on the same page.
"I speak to [head of youth development] Gerry Britton regularly to make sure things are going how we want them.
"There has to be a pathway in place so that we have another Stuart Bannigan coming through.
"We have got to keep a core group of players here and keep building on it.
"We can't go back to the days where we flushed 15 players away each summer and started again.
"Every time you stay in the Premiership, it is massive because you can keep progressing in all areas of the club.
"We want to keep building so that if we do struggle on the park, the club is still secure."
The on-field action may have taken a temporary break but the hard work is continuing for Archibald as he prepares for another crack at the top flight.
Like the players who have benefitted from a season playing at the top level, the manager is a year older and wiser from the rigours of life at the sharp end of Scottish football.
Mistakes have been made but it is the lessons that have been learned that will stand Archibald and his squad in good stead next term.
"There are a lot of young players in the league and the games are very open," he said.
"You could see a gap from the top four or five to the rest of the league and that is mostly based on consistency.
"Those teams go on runs of four or five games and that is the difference between the top half and bottom half."
ARCHIE added: "In terms of quality in a one-off game, there wasn't a lot in it I don't think.
"It is a learning curve. It is about seeing out games and knowing how to win games.
"We got better at it but not good enough, that is how we missed out on seventh place."
It has been a productive summer so far for Archibald, with the likes of Bannigan, Gary Fraser, Kris Doolan and Paul Gallacher all committing themselves to the club once again and Ryan Stevenson becoming the first new face at Firhill last week.
Archibald revealed in SportTimes last month that he is targeting at least six new arrivals and the experience of his previous two transfer markets will prove useful.
"I don't think there is one mistake that stands out," the Jags boss said. "The one thing I have learned is try and do as much business as you can in the summer.
"I wouldn't say it was a mistake of ours, we did a lot of business, but it is about doing your work early.
"You want most of them by August so you are not scampering around come January. It is a different market.
"We did a great bit of business getting Lyle Taylor in when we did. When we looked back at the end of January, it was an incredible deal because it got harder and harder as time went on."