The only way is up for Archie

THEY say that time flies when you're having fun, and the last 12 months have given Alan Archibald some of the best highs of his career.

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Alan Archibald had to hit the ground running when he took over as Jags boss mid season
Alan Archibald had to hit the ground running when he took over as Jags boss mid season

But as his first anniversary as Partick Thistle manager approaches, there have been few opportunities for moments of reflection.

It is one year on Thursday that Archibald, then a member of the Jags squad aiming for First Division title glory, was thrust into the Firhill spotlight as Jackie McNamara and Simon Donnelly quit the club to join Dundee United.

In a tumultuous few weeks, the Jags could have seen their promotion push come off the rails, but instead it proved the spark that re-ignited their bid to reel in Morton and clinch their return to Scotland's top flight after a lengthy absence.

Despite trailing Allan Moore's side by nine points, Thistle were viewed as champions-in-waiting by many, but the job was far from done.

It was Archibald who would pick up the reins and, like all true fairytales, the club legend would seal his place in Firhill folklore as the First Division crown was claimed.

The 36-year-old knows the happy-ever-after ending could have turned into a nightmare, however.

"A lot of managers have said it was a hard job that we took on," Archibald told SportTimes.

"Everyone looked at it as we could only lose the league.

"There was so much at stake and I obviously have a great affinity with the club so there was a lot of pressure not to let everyone down.

"I would have been tagged as the man that lost Thistle the league.

"You can have a great game but if you make one mistake, that is what you are remembered for."

Thistle may have finished the season a comfortable nine points ahead of Morton as the Cappielow side faltered late on but there was little margin for error in the weeks prior to their dreams finally being realised against Falkirk in April.

After replacing McNamara in the Firhill manager's office on January 30, it took until March 22 for the Jags board to confirm Archibald as boss on a permanent basis.

The days of speculation surrounding McNamara's future were followed by weeks of uncertainty regarding Archibald's position but, through it all, Thistle kept racking up the wins. Archibald said: "It was a bizarre few days and then it all happened on the Tuesday afternoon when Jackie left. I wanted to do my bit but I didn't know what the board were thinking.

"As soon as you put yourself forward, you could find that you are the first one to go if a new manager comes in.

"The board interviewed me right away but they had others to speak to and a process to go through.

"The more games we won and we didn't get the job, it seemed unlikely that it would be us.

"We then got it just before the Livingston game and it put pressure on that result but the boys were fantastic that day."

Just seven games after he marked his appointment with a win over the Lions, Archibald celebrated championship glory as goals from Andy Dowie and Chris Erskine sealed a 2-0 win over the Bairns.

It was Archibald's finest hour as a manager and one of the proudest in a distinguished career in the game.

Since getting his feet under the manager's desk at Firhill, the former defender has not pulled on his playing boots, with his decision not to select himself depriving him of a final appearance in front of the Jags fans.

He would still celebrate in style, though, with the silverware ceremony after the Dunfermline match a moment to remember.

Archibald said: "I would have regretted not playing again if we hadn't won the league.

"But there was no better feeling than getting the trophy on the final day of the season.

"It was just like a final game for me and such a proud moment. It would have been such a disappointment if we hadn't done it and, no matter what happens in the future, to have that experience and that achievement on my CV is fantastic.

"I said to the players to savour the moment. Some over-­savoured it and were hanging from the lights in the Star and Garter! I have said before I was jealous of Danny Lennon lifting the trophy all those years ago, it was something I wanted to do as a captain. I got to do it that day and it was the icing on the cake being able to do it as a player and a manager."

Having guided Thistle back to Scotland's top tier, Archibald's next task is to keep them there this term.

The Jags' performances thus far have belied their lack of experience on and off the pitch at this level, with the battle to avoid the relegation play-off spot heating up as games are chalked off.

"I am learning all the time and from every match no matter if you win, lose or draw," Archibald said. "You take so much from every game in terms of what the players could have done better and what you could have done as a coach.

"I speak to a lot of managers in the league and obviously ones I have had before like Ian McCall. They have all got something to say and want to help you.

"There are guys at the club like Ian Maxwell and Gerry Britton and the two Scotts (assistant manager Paterson and coach McKenzie) who help me as well. You need that support or you get bogged down."

There may be some way to go in the Premiership campaign but the coming days could be decisive.

The visit of Dundee United on Saturday is another chance for Thistle to end their home hoodoo but it is the closing of the transfer window on Friday night that is at the forefront of Firhill minds just now.

Archibald said: "I go to all the board meetings and I speak to Maxy and the chairman on a regular basis. The board have been fantastic. They realised we needed a bit extra in January and we have got good players in this month.

"They are willing to help us again. We would like to do more business. We have missed out on a couple of midfielders in the last couple of weeks. It is hard. We are competing with clubs with different wage structures and teams who have got more to offer but we will keep trying."

 

ARCHIE'S KEY MOMENTS...

1. Morton 2-2 Partick Thistle (February 16)

AFTER seeing his first two games as interim boss – away fixtures at Cowdenbeath and Raith Rovers – postponed, Archibald finally took charge for the first time at Cappielow as Thistle let a two-goal lead slip against their title rivals.

 

2. Partick Thistle 1-0 Morton (April 10)

JUST days after losing the Ramsdens Cup final, Thistle took a huge step towards the title as James Craigen netted the only goal of the game at a packed Firhill.

 

3. Falkirk 0-2 Partick Thistle (April 20)

THE Jags ended their nine-year wait for title glory as goals from Andy Dowie and Chris Erskine got them over the line.

 

4. Partick Thistle 0-0 Dundee United (August 2)

AS McNamara returned to Firhill, Thistle marked their return to the top flight as the First Division flag was unfurled on the opening night of the SPFL Premiership. There was to be no winning start for the Jags, however, as they were held to a 0-0 draw.

 

5. Partick Thistle 3-3 Ross County (January 11)

A GAME that sums up Thistle's frustrating season so far as they threw away a two-goal lead against one of their main relegation rivals. A Lyle Taylor double and Steven Lawless strike had them on course for a much-needed victory but late defensive lapses cost them.

 

ARCHIE'S RECORD...

P45   W18   D14   L13

Football

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