Partick Thistle snap up Premiership defender on loan as Ian McCall relishes Owen Coyle reunion
The Jags have started the Championship season by collecting four points from their opening two fixtures.
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The 30-year-old versatile defender, who has enjoyed previous spells with Rangers, St Mirren, Gillingham and Hamilton Accies, was part of the Ayrshire club’s Championship title-winnng squad last season.
The Northern Ireland international - capped 24 times by his country - began his senior career at Watford before earning a move to MK Dons in 2013.
He ventured north of the border for the first time after joining Kilmarnock on loan for the second half of the 2015/16 campaign before returning to Rugby Park for a second stint on a permanent basis last summer.
McCall, who has faced a centre-half injury crisis in the opening weeks of the season, admitted: “Lee was my number one target to add to the defensive ranks and I’m delighted that he is joining us on loan.
“It took a little bit of time to do, but he is a quality player and it is always worth waiting that little bit of time for someone who will add quality to our squad.
“Lee has experience of winning at this level, being part of the Kilmarnock team which won the league last season and he’s a player that I can see making a real impact in our squad this season.
“He is the perfect type of defender as he is versatilye and cal fill in across the backline. He’s equally comfortably in both full back positions but he doesn’t look out of place at centre back as part of a back three either.
“He’ll push the rest of our defenders all the way to keep their place in the starting eleven.
Meanwhile, McCall reckons his close friend Owen Coyle will want to get one over him when Thistle face Queen’s Park at Ochilview this weekend - but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Jags boss worked closely with Coyle during their time at Airdrie, Falkirk and Dundee United together and they’ll be reunited on Saturday for the first time in opposing dugouts.
McCall said: “I’ve known Owen and Sandy Stewart (assistant) a long time. Owen played 83 games for me and scored 58 goals and never missed a training session.
“I wish every player I ever had was like him. His enthusiasm is exceptional.
“Like every manager over time there will be ups and downs. His first few years his trajectory was about going up the way. He’s reinvented himself over the last few years and I’m not surprised by how well he has done.
“I’m looking forward to coming up against him as a manager, I don’t think we have faced each other in the dugout. We used to meet every Friday when we were at Airdrie and we had breakfast together.
“Sandy is a great football person, it’s a cliche. He was at Ayr with me and he can talk for Britain but he’s a great person and I’ve been fortunate to work with them.
“I know Coyley will be so nice to me before the game and then he will want to absolutely batter me on the pitch. That’s exactly the way it should be.”
The Spiders are competing in the second tier of Scottish football for the first time in 40 years after earning promotion from League One via the play-offs last term.
McCall, who watched a number of fringe players and academy youngsters earn a 3-2 win over Ayr United in a bounce game earlier this week, began his playing career at Queens in 1983.
He commented: “The clubs is so different now from the one I enjoyed. I wouldn’t say it was a stepping stone but if you did well there people noticed you as there was no transfer fee involved.
“I made some good friends there and they remain friends to this day.
“I owe Eddie Hunter everything I have had in my football career. He broke one or two boys but I reacted well to him and he gave me my start in the game.
“It’s different now and they are looking to progress. Mr (Willie) Haughey is trying to do something good there and good luck to them.
“I watched a lot of Queens last season and I know Coyley found it hard to tell boys who got them promoted they would have to go.
“He has signed well and one of the boys when I took over here Tommy Robson is there and he was a great lad. I’m looking forward to seeing him.”
Commenting on the midweek friendly, McCall added: “We got boys who have missed some pre-season got some minutes the other night. It was good and it served its purpose.”