Partick Thistle boss Ian McCall impressed by Thomas Courts impact at Dundee United ahead of Scottish Cup last-16 clash

The Jags are aiming to make amends for last season’s cup disappointment at Tannadice

Ian McCall has been impressed by the impact made by rookie manager Thomas Courts at Dundee United ahead of tomorrow’s last-16 Scottish Cup clash between the two sides.

Courts’ appointment as the Tangerines permanent boss shocked many onlookers in the summer, following the sudden departure of Micky Mellon.

Despite being somewhat of an unknown quantity, Courts had previously led Kelty Hearts into the SPFL via the Lowland League play-off final in 2018 before moving to Tannadice in February 2020 to take up the role of head of tactical performance in the club’s youth academy.

Thomas Courts, manager of Dundee United. (Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

The 40-year-old has since steered United into fourth place in the Scottish Premiership and while pleased to see his old club competing at the top end of the table again, Partick Thistle boss McCall is hopeful his first head-to-head clash with Courts is a winning one.

He said: “I think of all the young managers that have started Tam Courts is doing really well.

“It’s not easy, Stephen (Glass) and Shaun (Maloney) are finding it quite hard at Aberdeen and Hibs but Tam’s done really, really well.

“I had a couple of conversations with him earlier in the season as he wanted my advice on Lawrence Shankland’s situation.

“I had a chat with him to about how no one really knew who he was and that he would likely get a bit of blow-back from experienced guys. You’ve just got to handle it, I had that myself when I first started in management.”

The Jags suffered Scottish Cup heartache at Tannadice last season after Nicky Clark’s controversial injury-time winner saw United progress in the competition.

Nicky Clark takes the plaudits from Logan Chalmers and Lawrence Shankland after scoring a late winner

However, McCall reckons the result could well have been different, insisting the gulf in class between several clubs at the bottom of the Premiership and a handful of teams competing at the top end of the Championship is non-existent.

He admitted: “That game has gone now. When Nicky Clark pushed our guy to nick the winning goal and then had a big smile on his face after he knew and I knew (it was a foul and the goal shouldn’t have stood).

“I was telling the boys yesterday about the year Dundee United won the cup under Peter Houston.

“I always remember the game against them at Firhill, I’ve never seen Alan Archibald get angry as a player but it was when Damian Casalinuovo hand-balled it into the net.

“They got another goal in the 93rd minute when we were pushing up the park, so I hope that type of thing doesn’t happen tomorrow.

“Unfortunately for us it looks like Dundee United have turned a corner a wee bit and they’re doing better now. They had a poor run of results, so it will be a hard game for us but likewise for them as well.

Partick manager Ian McCall speaks with referee Steven McLean after the incident involving Brian Graham

“I’ve said for many years I don’t think there’s a difference between the bottom three of four teams in the Premiership and the top three or four in the Championship.

“I genuinely don’t which is why I’ve banged on about creating a bigger league for so long.

“You’re not telling me right now a game between St Johnstone and Arbroath or Dundee and Kilmarnock wouldn’t be close, of course it would.”

Striker Alex Jakubiak is in contention to make his first start after moving to Firhill on loan for the rest of the season from Dundee in a move that saw Zak Rudden head to Tayside.

McCall added: “Alex needs a wee run of games and a bit of luck. He’s had a hard time at Dundee with a couple of injuries but prior to that he he didn’t miss a game at St Mirren and played a lot at Falkirk.

“I thought he was really good when he came on against Ayr and Inverness, he looked really bright, strong and quick so he’s put himself in line to start on Saturday.

“I know one or two people that know him well, particularly the coach at Watford, so the type of character he is was never in doubt. I’m looking forward to watching him play more.”

Thistle are still without Darren Brownlie (knee) and Richard Foster (calf), while centre-back Tunji Akinola is suspended and St Mirren loanee Kyle McAllister is cup-tied after scoring for his parent club in the previous round.