PARTICK THISTLE winger Joe Cardle admitted that the Jags’ title celebrations on Wednesday were a little surreal but the 34-year-old insists he will cherish his League One winner’s medal all the same.

The winger was signed by previous manager Gary Caldwell in January 2019 and has had an eventful time of it in Glasgow’s west end. In his first season, Thistle avoided relegation to the third tier on the final day of the Championship campaign. They were then demoted the following season on a points-per-game basis as the 2019/20 season was curtailed by the pandemic and the current one – his first ‘full’ season at the club – has culminated in a title win.

It was Cardle who applied the cherry on top of Thistle’s cake last week when he came off the bench to add a fifth against Falkirk as Ian McCall’s men swaggered to the title in style. The Maryhill club held a trophy presentation and medal ceremony at their stadium earlier this week, where no representatives from the SFA or SPFL were allowed to attend. A small contingent of supporters watched on from a vantage point on the canal behind the ground, with Cardle visiting them after the celebrations to hand out t-shirts printed by Thistle for the occasion.

It was a kind gesture to make; a symbolic act acknowledging the relationship between the players and the fans that still exists, even in these socially-distanced times. And given the subdued circumstances that Cardle and his team-mates were revelling in their success in, it’s easy to understand why he was compelled to do so.

“It’s a strange one with no fans being here,” he said. “It would have been nice to lift it on Thursday – it’s a different vibe today. It’s great to get our hands on a trophy and get a medal.

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“It’s not every year that you win a title so it’s a special day for everyone involved. Even at my age, 34, it’s nice to win another one. This is my third title in my career and it’s another special day.

“It’s always sweet to score but it was especially sweet with the way it worked out. I only managed to come on for the last 20 minutes and scored straight away. I think you can see what it meant with my celebration – even Sneds managed to get up and join in! It was just a great night all-round. It’s one that I’ll definitely remember for the rest of my life.”

Thistle’s turnaround and subsequent rampage up the standings as the campaign approached its conclusion was remarkable. Having started April in mid-table, McCall’s galvanised Jags surged upwards, winning five of their last six before the 5-0 trouncing of Falkirk that got them over the line.

When it comes to identifying the turning point in Thistle’s fortunes, Cardle is certain he has the answer.

“I think East Fife away is the one,” he explained. “When we came back from the restart, we started strong but there were a couple of games where we dropped points when we shouldn’t have.

“I think the East Fife game – I started on the bench and we were 2-0 down at half-time. It could have been three. The manager put me on and we got a couple of goals to snatch a point, and from then on in the buzz in the changing room has been brilliant.

“We’ve got a great set of lads and I think that showed in the last few games. We were all playing for each other and when we’re scoring goals we’re all celebrating with each other. I think that shows everyone that’s watching what we’re all about. The whole month has just been incredible.”

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With his contract set to expire, Cardle’s future at Firhill is up in the air. It remains to be seen if the former Dunfermline man will be offered a new deal and a crack at the Championship next season under McCall, or if he will move on in search of a new club.

The man himself is philosophical when asked where his future lies – but Cardle insists that wherever he ends up, he will never forget his eventful spell in Glasgow.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute being at Partick Thistle; it’s a great club,” he added. “The manager has been brilliant with me and the boys have been fantastic.

“I’ve been here two and a half years now and I’ve loved every minute of it. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some tough times in that period but the last six months have made up for that.

“I’d love to continue on here but we’ll just have to see how it goes in the summer. If it doesn’t happen then the last two and a half years have been fantastic and I’ll cherish these moments for the rest of my career.”