PARTICK Thistle manager Ian McCall knows exactly how it feels to mastermind a thrilling Scottish Cup win at Tannadice, having achieved the feat when he was the manager at Dundee United, and the 56-year-old is hoping to repeat the trick tomorrow afternoon.

The Jags boss will take his team to his old stomping ground this weekend and faces a daunting task to get a result, with 18 places separating the two sides in the SPFL standings.

But McCall is feeling optimistic about the third-round tie, and admits that this year’s competition – that falls on the 50-year anniversary of Thistle’s 1971 League Cup win over Jock Stein’s Celtic and the centenary of the club’s sole Scottish Cup triumph in 1921 – holds a little more significance because of the calendar.

He said: “I’ve been back many times now. I’m looking forward to it. I was reading quotes from wee Paul Hartley [in terms of resting players]. Obviously Tuesday [away to East Fife] is far bigger than Saturday. But I’m also very aware of what year it is for our club.

“Fifty years ago we were 4-0 up at half-time against the Lisbon Lions [in the ‘71 League Cup final]. Fifty years prior to that, in 1921, we won the Scottish Cup. So I’m aware of that and aware of the history there. So we’ll pick a team and give it our best go. But we’re fully aware that Tuesday is more important for us.

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“I think anybody involved in our club recognises the significance of ’21 and ’71 – in particular ’71 because of the way it was done and the team we were playing against. But if we can do something and get a bit of success to mark it then that would be great.

“The league is more important. In particular, because it’s been such a convoluted and shortened league. It has made it a little bit farcical to be honest. But it accentuates the fact that these games towards the end of the season are now even more important.

“But, listen, come three o’clock on Saturday afternoon, we’ll be going to try and win a cup tie. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. The teams in the Premiership all know more or less where they are going to finish now. So the cup maybe becomes the big one for them. But for all the clubs in the Championship and Leagues One and Two, the league is still the most important thing.

“I cannot believe that as a corporation man myself that the BBC aren’t covering it but there you go! We went up there just before lockdown and drew 1-1, and we maybe could have won that game. It’s a great place to go and play.

“Obviously I’ve played and managed at Tannadice when there’s big crowds, the atmosphere – we had a quarter-final against Aberdeen and we won four or 5-1 – the atmosphere was just fantastic. But the other side of the coin is that if you’re a faltering Dundee United manager, as I was at the end, the long walk down the track to the tunnel isn’t particularly nice. There’s ups and downs with all of it.”

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There is one particular threat for the Arabs that McCall is intimately familiar with: Lawrence Shankland, the 25-year-old striker whose career was launched by the Thistle boss when he signed him up for Ayr.

However, McCall is adamant that the Scotland internationalist owes him squat – arguing that if anything, it’s the manager who is indebted to old protégé and his former team-mates at Somerset Park.

“You have to stop the service to him,” he said. “If he gets good service, then he’s capable of doing anything.

“Everyone always says that Lawrence owes me. But I’ve got to say, it’s Lawrence Shankland, Alan Forrest, Robbie Crawford, Michael Rose… I owe them. It’s me who owes all of these guys.

“You need to stop the service to Lawrence because I’ve seen him score all kinds of goals – right foot, left foot, headers. He can do it all. He scored one from about 50 yards once at Firhill. And he did something similar at Tannadice earlier this season.

“He’s a good player, a great boy, and he deserves every success that comes his way. Liam Smith is another one of my old boys. It’ll be great to see them again, but I’m in constant touch with Lawrence anyway.”

Thistle, of course, have some potent weapons of their own to deploy at Tannadice. Chief among them is veteran centre-forward Brian Graham, who goes into the game in good form having scored in each of his last two outings in red-and-yellow.

Like McCall, Graham too was once on the books at United – but the Jags manager insists that neither of the pair have anything to demonstrate to their former employers.

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“I certainly don’t think I’ve got a point to prove,” he added. “I went up there and beat them 5-0 with Ayr United.

“We had a problem scoring goals, but we’ve scored nine in our last three games. Brian’s an honest big boy. He just gives you what he’s got.

“He’ll start on Saturday and we’ll just keep an eye on him looking ahead to Tuesday. You can see his celebrations. Even when there’s no crowd, he goes bananas when he scores. He’s been a credit to himself since he’s been here at the club.”

Connor Murray is another who McCall will be turning to at Tannadice to provide a game-changing moment of magic. The winger has had a slow start to life at Firhill following his move from Queen of the South last summer but after scoring in each of the Jags’ last two games – including a spectacular looping equaliser in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Forfar – the Thistle boss reckons fans are finally starting to see the best of the mercurial winger.

McCall explained: “He’s one of the players – and James Penrice is another – where we want him to start showing what he shows in training in games. Since we’ve been back, and he did it in the last game before lockdown against Falkirk [on Boxing Day] when he was the best player on the pitch.

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“He’s got really great ability but he needs to get his goal average up, and he’s starting to do that now. He’s a boy that’s very much part of our long-term plans here in terms of the type of boy he is; his attitude, he wants to get better, how humble he is. His goal the other night was a fantastic finish.”