STUART BANNIGAN’S career almost acts as the perfect metaphor to the plight of Partick Thistle over the past 18 months. At one point, the midfielder was flying high and on the verge of a move to a higher level, before serious injury put paid to those dreams.

The club, to their credit, stood by him during those dark days, but what made his long-term absence all the more painful was watching the struggles that followed for his team.

Perhaps only the Eurostar has come through as many long, dark tunnels as Bannigan has over that period, but the midfielder can finally see light at the end of what has been a tortuous journey both individually for him, and collectively for the club.

Bannigan is keen to stress that the arrival of two of his former Thistle bosses as manager and assistant, with manager Ian McCall being joined by club legend Alan Archibald along with Neil Scally in the backroom team, won’t turn the club around overnight.

But what he is sure of is that given hard work and a little time, turn it around they will.

“I think this is an opportunity to put things behind us,” Bannigan said. “We believe we can get back to where we were.

“It certainly won’t happen overnight and we’re not automatically going to become a really good side, but I believe we have the right people that have the club at heart in charge.

“It’s all down to us now as players on the park. We know we haven’t performed to the levels we can do, so hopefully the new manager can get the best out of us.

“I’m not sure why things have been so bad. There’s obviously an inconsistency there and we’ve not had a run of games where we’ve been good this season.

“We’ve been sort of up and down. We showed glimpses against Ross County in the cup that we have good players here, but it’s something we’ll need to fix.

“Is it the hangover from the relegation to the Championship, and that’s just continued on? I don’t know, but that’s well in the past now, so we certainly can’t use that as an excuse.

“We need to get rid of that and bring a positive atmosphere back to the club.”

Training for the first time under the new team in the Thistle dugout on Tuesday certainly brought that.

“It was good, there was a vibrancy about the place, and it was good to see the new management team,” said Bannigan. “It was a good day.

“I think having guys who know the place is maybe what we needed, but it’s not just that, they’re good people and they have done really well in the past as well.

“The manager did a fantastic job at Ayr, they’re flying, and for him to come here and give us his expertise is great.

“Archie as well, he did fantastic job here as manager. Both men know the club inside out and I’m sure that will help us.”

On a personal level, Bannigan knows he hasn’t been at his best this season, and he agrees with his new boss’s assessment that he has playing with something of a weight on his shoulders.

Previous manager Gary Caldwell attempted to alleviate the pressure he was feeling by stripping him of the captaincy, but while Bannigan wouldn’t use that as an excuse for his performances, he admits it was a hard thing to process.

“It was difficult,” he said. “Truthfully, I was proud to be the captain, and I was delighted to have it, but it’s certainly not the be all and end all if I wasn’t the captain.

“He told me he was thinking about changing it, and I was obviously a wee bit disappointed, but at the same time he was the manager and I was happy with his decision at the time.

“Big Sean McGinty stepped in and has done a good job with it, so if he continues as captain then I’ll certainly back him up.

“The manager hasn’t really spoken to me about the captaincy going forward, I’m sure it will be raised in the coming days when things have settled down a bit, and we’ll figure that out.

“You want to do well all the time, but I’ve been around long enough to know that it’s not always going to be rosy.

“You take the bad times with the good. I try to never hide. Yes, performances haven’t been where I want them to be, but you have to try to ride the wave at times. Maybe I’ve been trying too hard to do too many jobs on the park and help other people out.

“Hopefully I can get back to my best and help the team back up the table.”

Despite that decision to remove the armband from him, Bannigan says he has the utmost respect for former boss Caldwell, and was sad that the players couldn’t put his methods into practice where it mattered.

“I wish him all the best and I certainly thank him for all his efforts with me,” he said.

“Maybe it was just the time to change it up a bit. The results weren’t good enough and unfortunately that’s the way football is, if you don’t get the results you look to change it.

“I certainly don’t like to see anyone losing their job, but hopefully it’s a fresh start for us all.”

The new era for Thistle begins tonight with the sternest test possible, a visit to Celtic Park on League Cup duty. 

Bannigan knows that his side will be up against it, but is hoping to get the McCall era off to an unlikely and earth-shattering start.

“The boys are excited to go and play there," he said. "They know the challenge ahead of us, they are a top side and they haven’t been beaten in the cup competitions for a long time.

“We know the job at hand, but it’s something of a free shot for us to go and try to express ourselves and try to get a bit of confidence for our league game on Saturday.

“And you never know in football, we might just throw up a surprise and shock everybody.”