ALAN ARCHIBALD is as woven into the fabric of Partick Thistle as any other man in the modern era. The 42-year-old has spent the best part of 20 years involved with the Firhill club and former defender has served in just about every capacity possible; apprentice, player, captain, coach, manager and assistant. Archie has seen at done it all in Maryhill.

To say that Archibald’s time at Thistle has been tumultuous would be something of an understatement. As a player he suffered two relegations, celebrated three promotions and was involved in countless battles for survival in three different tiers of Scottish football with the club.

He was with the club when Thistle’s very existence was under threat as they flirted with financial oblivion. He was there when legendary Thistle manager John Lambie breathed new life into the club and dragged them up the divisions. And now, he serves as assistant to Ian McCall with the Championship club looking to bring two-and-a-half years of stress, dismal performances and struggle to an end.

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But when events from just over 20 years ago are brought into focus, Thistle’s current plight looks relatively tame by comparison. It wasn’t all that long ago that the Maryhill club were staring financial implosion in the face. The ‘Save The Jags’ campaign was launched to raise funds for the troubled Glasgow club when Archibald was breaking into the first team at Firhill and the former Scotland under-21 internationalist says that he has mixed feelings about that time in his career.

“It was really strange,” he recalls. “I was just a young lad in my first full season I think. There was the elation of being in the first team alongside a few other young boys, then at the same time the news came through about the campaign. It was a really strange season.

“It was bizarre because you’re feeling so good about playing in the first team but there was all the uncertainty. I think we were the first club to go down that road [of serious financial difficulties]. I remember reading at the time that it could start a domino effect between clubs and it did, so to speak, so it was a really strange season.”

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Relegation followed and in the space of just four years, Thistle went from being a Premier League team to only surviving relegation to the old Third Division – the fourth tier – by finishing a single point ahead of East Fife. But the return of a club legend, Lambie, for his fourth spell in charge of the club, changed everything. Back-to-back promotions were clinched between 2000 and 2002, and Thistle’s top-flight status was comfortably retained the following year. Unsurprisingly, Archibald has fond memories of his old boss.

“He was brilliant,” he says. “It was so different. He was the manager when I first came in, when I was a young boy, but he never really took anything to do with the youth team.

“At that time he was totally different; he was madcap, he was bizarre, superstitious. He always used to say ‘Get off the f*****g stairs, son’ because he was superstitious and didn’t want you to cross him on the stairs. But when he came back he was much more mellowed. He was a different character altogether. He had a big job on his hands to be fair, but he came back and saved us by keeping us up. Then he started building a squad to move up the leagues and what he did after that was just incredible.

“He was still bonkers! He had opened up a bit, he was looking at the mental side of the game more. He had never bothered with anything like that before. He told Gerry Britton not to come in for a week – he’d just had kids and Lambie just said ‘See you on Friday, Gerry’. Things like that, he would have never done that before, thinking about people’s lives away from football.

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“He still was old school, he just went through a phase where he signed really, really good players to fix the situation we were in. I remember Ian McCall’s Airdrie team, they were our closest challengers when we won the First Division and he used to say we signed a player every Friday – and we did! We more or less signed a Livingston player every Friday afternoon. Somebody else would turn up at the club on the Friday and would go right in the team on the Saturday. Jamie Dolan, Derek Fleming, Gerry Britton, it was one a week. He had that great knack of signing players who were he right type to fit into the group.”

Archibald left Thistle in the summer of 2003 for Dundee United at what he felt was the end of an era at Firhill. He admits it was a tough decision to leave the club that he had been with since making his debut back in 1996 but he felt the time was right to move on.

“It was a big, big wrench to leave Thistle because the journey was fantastic,” Archibald said.” You look at what Livingston have done recently – we were very, very similar. We won two divisions then stayed up comfortably in the Premier League.

“But John Lambie was retiring and all the players were leaving, so it was it was going to be a totally new regime. It was a big wrench to go but I just felt that things were going to change and I had a good opportunity to go and work with the guys that I trusted.”

Archibald would return to Thistle in January 2007 on the last day of the transfer window and would finish his playing career at Firhill with over 350 appearances for the Jags to his name. He would remain at the club as a coach, however, before dipping his toes into management. Typically, it would be another rollercoaster for Archie.

Read Part II of Alan Archibald’s story tomorrow, where the Thistle man recounts winning titles and losing finals; reaching historic highs, and the pain of relegation and getting sacked by the club that he loves; and the John Lambie traits that he sees in Ian McCall. Exclusively in the Glasgow Times.

Alan Archibald was promoting Thistle’s A Pizza, A Pint and A Title Winner event at Firhill on Friday 13 March, which will feature a fans Q&A with Archie, Kenny Arthur and Denis McQuade – tickets via