Partick Thistle manager Ian McCall insists Arbroath’s ‘part-time’ status should not apply in ultra-competitive Championship

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Both teams are locked on 28 points in the table ahead of today’s meeting at Firhill Stadium

Partick Thistle manager Ian McCall insists anyone writing off Arbroath as Championship title contenders this season would kidding themselves.

The Jags will aim to make it nine straight clean sheets in a row when they face the Red Lichties at Firhill Stadium this afternoon in a battle of the two highest scoring teams in the league.

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Both teams are lock on 28 points in the table, but Thistle sit above today’s visitors in fourth spot on goal difference.

McCall has never agreed with Arbroath’s “part-time” status, claiming they are a far better side than that, especially under the leadership of long-standing boss Dick Campbell.

The 68-year-old, Scottish football’s oldest and most experienced manager, has been in charge of the Gayfield outfit for almost six years and McCall reckons his achievements at the club are second to none.

He recalled a memorable incident at Somerset Park in January 2018 that proved how passionate Campbell remains about the game and to this day still reverberates strongly.

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McCall said: “They will be up there at the end of the season, I’ve no doubt. They’ve got a centre-back who could play in any team in Scotland barring Rangers and Celtic in my opinion.

“Sandy Stewart’s boy (Scott) is a PE teacher and I think half of their squad are PT instructors, so they have got a lot of good players, a really good manager and coaches.

“When I was at Ayr, myself and Dick had a few really good tussles, we beat them well on a few occasions and vice versa.

“Obviously there was that famous game at Somerset when Dick lost it on the touchline, I swear it was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my whole career!

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“He wasn’t five yards on the pitch, he was nearly on the penalty spot! He stormed on to the pitch and I remember looking over to his brother (Ian Campbell) who was just shaking his head and didn’t know what to do.

“We won 4-1 that day, but they were denied a stonewall penalty and the referee never gave it, so he had a point. Whether I’d have reacted that way I don’t know but it was very funny.

“Dick wasn’t laughing at the time, he was absolutely raging and I stayed well clear of him, but it’s a very emotional game and sometimes you react in a way that you maybe shouldn’t.

“You try your best not to but it’s happened to us all. Sometimes people give referee’s and linesman a tough time but it’s an emotive game we’re in.

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“To see what Dick has done at Arbroath is very special. Sometimes you get managers that suit a certain club.”

Tipped for relegation, Campbell kept Arbroath in Scotland’s second-tier last season with a historic 5th place finished - the club’s highest for many decades - and this season appears no different with a play-off spot in their sights.

However, McCall will hope his in-form Thistle side can delay their progress for at least another week as the Maryhill men look to extend their unbeaten run.

“That would be nice,” McCall stated. “At the time I felt a draw was probably fair against Queen of the South but we had two or three great chances in the second half to win the game.

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Jamie (Sneddon) has made one unbelievable save and a few other good ones but we should’ve won.

“When you’ve won four or five on the bounce you can’t expect to win every match, but there will be a big crowd at Firhill and our supporters will expect us to win and we’ve got to try and do that.”

Ahead of the January transfer window opening next month, McCall admits he is looking at bringing in no more than “one or two” reinforcements to bolster his squad but admits he is also content with the current crop of players he has at his disposal.

He added: “As long as we keep all of our players then I think the very most we’ll look at coming in is two players. I don’t think there will be a lot of people leaving - maybe one.

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“Even the boys who haven’t been regular starters have been training great, they’re coming on and making an impact, so that’s the maximum number we’ll be looking at.

“I can’t for the life of me think it’s worth letting (down) two or three of those boys that, considering how well they’re thought of.

“If the right player becomes available that can help us over a longer period then we might do something there but I’m very, very happy with the togetherness of the squad right now.”

Asked whether the club are any further forward with regards to contract extensions, McCall replied: “We’re getting there but these things take a bit of time. I’m confident of getting them done.”

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