Scottish Daily Mail

Thistle ‘will run through brick walls for boss’


- STEPHEN McGOWAN Chief Football Writer

FOR Partick Thistle, promotion to the SPFL Premiershi­p is clearly important. To paraphrase the late Bill Shankly, it’s not a matter of life and death.

Accepting his first role in management in February, Kris Doolan was reminded of football’s essentiall­y trivial nature. Alongside the demands and expectatio­n of leading the Firhill club back to the top flight, the legendary striker found himself wrestling with more significan­t pressures closer to home.

Before leading Thistle to a 4-3 win over Queen’s Park in the first leg of their Premiershi­p play-off quarter-final on Tuesday night, the 36-year-old publicly addressed his father’s ill health.

Yesterday brought news of Lawrence Doolan’s death. Absent from pre-match media duties, the Jags manager will decide for himself if he feels strong enough to take the team for tonight’s second leg at Ochilview.

While the timing of the loss could hardly be worse for Partick Thistle, assistant Paul McDonald and player of the season Jack McMillan spoke yesterday of their desire to win the game for the manager. From death and sorrow, Thistle just might find some unity and renewed purpose.

‘We had a strong training session today and the lads can’t wait to cross the line tomorrow,’ said McDonald, deputising at the pre-match press conference.

‘Thistle are a club renowned for rallying round their people. None more so than Kris at this difficult moment in time.

‘All of the players are aware of the situation and I believe they will run through a brick wall for him. The aim and the focus tomorrow will be on getting the result this club deserves.’

Doolan himself surely deserves to catch a break after a fraught period in his personal and profession­al life.

The fans’ favourite was asked to step into the breach after the departure of Ian McCall in February. Steadying the ship, he steered Thistle to a fourth-place finish in the Championsh­ip after a 2-2 draw with Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park last Friday night. All this while spending his free time attending to his ailing father in a Glasgow hospital. ‘It’s been a difficult time for the manager and his family,’ acknowledg­ed defender McMillan. ‘We’d run through a brick wall for him anyway, but it just adds that extra emotional attachment to it. ‘The manager has been great since he came in and the whole squad has kicked on. He put his own stamp on things very quickly and it’s worked. ‘The stats speak for themselves because we’ve only lost once since he took over.’ Doolan’s only defeat in 14 games in charge came against Inverness in the Highlands. For a rookie manager navigating personal family turmoil, it’s a remarkable record. Finding a way to overcome the loss of his father to beat Queen’s Park and secure a two-legged play-off semi-final against Ayr United would be the most significan­t result yet. Striker Brian Graham’s goal in added time eked out a 4-3 win over Owen Coyle’s side in the first leg and offered further evidence of defensive frailty in the Spiders’ rearguard.

‘It was a massive goal at the end for us,’ added Firhill No 2 McDonald.

‘We felt disappoint­ment at one or two of the decisions that went against us during the game through no fault of our own.

‘The boys, over the piece, were fantastic. I thought we were brilliant and it was just unfortunat­e that a couple of the decisions that went against us brought Queen’s Park back into the game.

‘The character we showed, and have shown previously, to come back in the final stages of the game and score the winner was unbelievab­le.

‘Kris has hit the ground running and what he has achieved so far has been remarkable.’

For teams finishing third or fourth in the Championsh­ip, it’s easier to throw a double six and ride a motorcycle through a ring of fire than it is to withstand the rigorous schedule of games needed to secure promotion via the play-offs.

After finishing 27 points adrift of Cove Rangers in League One, Queen’s Park showed they could do it last season. Thistle now need to show the same resilience.

‘All successful teams have weekend and midweek fixtures and we are no different,’ said McDonald. ‘That’s the message to the guys. The best teams play two games a week because they are getting to the latter stages of competitio­ns.

‘We realise how demanding it is. But we will be focused, fit and ready for any challenge ahead of us.’

After winning a fans’ vote for player of the season ahead of Graham, Steven Lawless and Harry Milne, former Motherwell and Livingston defender McMillan believes the Jags have what it takes to go up.

‘It’s demanding, but the rewards are worth it,’ he added. ‘The character in that changing room is massive. We got the last-minute goal in the first leg and that shows we have the fight to never give up. We’re more than determined to kick on.

‘At this stage, adrenaline gets you through it. The games are Tuesday and Friday and everyone knows how important they are.’

 ?? ?? Noses in front: Brian Graham celebrates his late first-leg winner over Queen’s Park
Noses in front: Brian Graham celebrates his late first-leg winner over Queen’s Park
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 ?? ?? Grieving process: Doolan missed training
Grieving process: Doolan missed training

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