McParland: I built winning side with buttons, now it's Jackie who can be Thistle top brass

DAVIE McPARLAND assembled perhaps the greatest Partick Thistle team Firhill has ever seen.

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McParland has been impressed with McNamara this season
McParland has been impressed with McNamara this season

And the man who wrote his name in Jags folklore as both a player and a manager hopes Jackie McNamara can follow in his footsteps and return the club he served with distinction to Scotland's top tier.

Four decades may have elapsed since McParland's side claimed the Second Division title and famously shocked Celtic to win the League Cup, but the exploits of that era remain fondly remembered by those with an affinity to the club.

In the years since Thistle dropped out of the Scottish Premier League, there have been only a handful of serious challenges to clinch a return to the top echelons of Scottish football.

Despite working under stringent financial restrictions, McNamara has built a youthful, vibrant and talented squad in only his second term in the dugout.

His signings have proven astute and his nous for the job natural and McParland, who was given the manager's job shortly after bringing the curtain down on his 416-game Jags playing career, knows success doesn't always have to be bought.

"I have been very impressed with the job Jackie has done so far," he told SportTimes.

"He is a talented young man who will hopefully have a great career as a manager. He has got a good eye for a player and you need that.

"When I finished my career as a player I went into management right away, but I had checked out a couple of players I thought could be valuable to us – Hugh Strachan and Alex Rae. They were the only two players I brought in.

"When I got the job at Thistle, I went to see the board and said to them 'the first thing I want to do is bring in one or two players' and there was a gasp of amazement.

"I said that I needed some money. I was asked to leave and they had a meeting and when they called me back in I was told that they had decided to give me £2000 to spend.

"It wasn't a lot of money but I got Strachan and Rae in. The team that won the League Cup and won the league, that is what it cost, £2000. It wasn't bad going."

McNamara may not be able to match McParland's achievements and take Thistle to Hampden glory this season, but it could still be a memorable campaign for the Jags boss if they can complete an Irn-Bru First Division and Ramsdens Cup double.

With their final berth against Queen of the South already secured and his side well positioned in the league, the coming months could be some of the best in the club's recent history.

"It is good to see Thistle in a position where they can try and win promotion once more," McParland said.

"I have seen them a couple of times this season and they have played well.

"Jackie has built a good team, it is the start of his managerial career but I think he has done very well.

"If you are about the club, you can notice a different feel around the place. That is brought by success and optimism.

"I was in a title challenge after getting the job as we had been relegated and I had to get them up that season.

"There is a pressure there and you have to accept that. I am sure Jackie will do that.

"For a young man, Jackie has done a good job."

It is not just McParland who has been impressed by the way McNamara has adapted to life in the dugout, with the Thistle board last month handing their manager a new and improved contract.

Leading the Jags to the double would undoubtedly see McNamara's stock rise even further but it is the here and now that will be of greatest concern.

McParland said: "There are always clubs looking for new managers.

"The difficulty for Jackie, I hope, is that when he feels the time is right to move on that he will have a choice.

"Then he can sit down and make a decision but that will be the last thing on his mind just now.

"He will want to do well for Thistle. He is a good lad. He gets on with his players and that is important."

Having spent nearly a decade outside the SPL, the opening months of the season have been welcomed by the long-suffering Jags faithful.

Crowds have picked up as fans have returned to see McNamara's free-flowing side in action and McParland hopes supporters continue to flock to Firhill.

"The attendances are better than I have seen for a while and that is encouraging," he said.

"When I took over, we had been relegated and we had disappointing attendances at that time. "The fans were used to seeing us playing Rangers, Celtic, Hibs and Hearts.

"The fans will come out for a winning team and hopefully they continue to increase as the season goes on for Jackie and his men."

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