Ian McCall has paid tribute to two former Partick Thistle stalwarts Bertie Auld and Paul Kelly, who both passed away in recent weeks.
Beloved Lisbon Lion Auld, who managed the club over two spells from 1974 to 1980 and for the 1986 season, lost his battle with dementia last Sunday at the age of 83.
Thistle’s Charitable Trust manager Kelly, who oversaw the delivery of 25,000 free meals to vulnerable people during the Coronavirus pandemic, died earlier this month after suffering Covid-related complications.
The Jags have confirmed a minute’s applause will be held in memory of Kelly prior to their Scottish Championship clash with Hamilton Accies this weekend, with players donning black armbands as a mark of respect.
Auld’s legacy will be remembered ahead of the club’s Scottish Cup fixture against Dunfermline the following Friday.
McCall admitted: “I knew Bertie pretty well, I had a few chats with him.
“I knew Paul, I did some work for them (the Charitable Trust) a few Christmas’ ago when we were allowed to do things.
“It seems there is a lot of sadness around just now, Walter (Smith) as well a couple of weeks before that. It’s tough times, particularly for two guys that did so much for Thistle.
“Some of the stories I’ve heard about Bertie from some of the players that worked under him… I could tell you them but I won’t.
“Paul worked his socks off here, so he’ll be hard to replace.
“We want to do them both proud. I know a lot of Paul’s family will be at Firhill on Saturday. I think it’s the right thing to do.
“The sad thing is we seem to be doing a minutes’ silence most weeks just now – we did it for Walter, then it was Remembrance Day, now it’s Paul and then it’s Bertie, so let’s hope there’s not many of them for the rest of the season.”
The club have had to contend with tragedies off the pitch but matters on the pitch have been a lot more upbeat for McCall’s side.
A 4-0 thrashing of Ayr United last weekend stretched Thistle’s unbeaten run to seven games and secured a fifth successive clean sheet.
McCall stated: “We played really well. To be honest, I felt 2-0 at half-time flattered us because the game was a bit closer than that, but we were really comfortable in the second half.
“It was great that Brian (Graham) benefitted from a rest, which is something we’ll look at from time to time because he does put an awful lot into games. He got his just reward and (Zak) Rudden again was magic.
“The clean sheets have come out of nowhere. We’ve lost one goal in seven games and that was in the 90th minute against Hamilton when we were 6-0 up.
“(Jamie) Sneddon is playing well, all the defenders are confident, and we’ve got midfielders in front that do a really good job.
“We know it can’t go on forever but let’s try and do it for one more game.”
Hamilton are the visitors to Firhill Stadium on Saturday, still licking their wounds after their humiliating defeat by the Jags last month.
Asked if he is expecting an Accies backlash, McCall stated: “No, I don’t think so. It was a bit of a freak result as was proven in our next three games when we didn’t score a goal.
“They didn’t have a good result last Saturday (against Raith Rovers) but prior to that they picked up a couple of good results.
“It’s just as big a game for them as it is for us and it will be equally as hard as Kilmarnock away, so we’ve got to be at it right from the off.”
McCall admits he has one eye on the January transfer window but has received another major boost after confirming Steven Bell is back in training after a recent injury setback.
He said: “Bell did a bit of training yesterday, so we’d like to think he’ll be back quite soon as long as there is no reaction to his injury.
“He’s pencilled in for a Glasgow Cup game in early December, so it will be good to get him back. It means any business I do in January would not involve bringing in another defender.
“If we want to redevelop the club, you’ve got to be very forward-thinking, so of course my mind is on this window and also next summer.
“I won’t give away what areas I would like to strengthen just now, but I certainly think January is a difficult window.
“Two years ago, we did a lot of business in January and it worked well because we signed (Darren) Brownlie, Graham, (Ross) Docherty and Rudden… I don’t think anybody could say that they haven’t been big successes.
“If we do manage to get a couple of players in then there would only be one going out because we need to increase the size of the squad, not weaken it.
“It could just be loans but if the right type of player becomes available then we may try and so some work with that with a view to next season as well.
“I’d like to have 14 or 15 under contract by the start of next season, so that the club is evolving properly. I hope within the next two weeks we’ll have at least 11 sorted.”