STEVEN Bell has not spent much time at Firhill, yet the 36-year-old has made quite the impression in Glasgow’s west end. The experienced centre-half, recruited midway through the campaign as Ian McCall looked to reinforce the Jags’ defensive ranks, only played 10 games adorned in red-and-yellow. Almost all of them arrived in the month of April alone. And yet, without wanting to over-egg it, the veteran defender’s status as a fan favourite at Partick Thistle is secure.

It’s been quite the campaign for Bell. After starting the campaign at Somerset Park, he dropped down to the Lowland League to sign for East Kilbride. By Christmas, the fifth tier had been declared null and void and then in February, the opportunity arose to sign a short-term deal at Thistle.

Bell and his East Kilbride team-mate Chris Erskine jumped at the chance. So too did Andy Geggan, who joined on a similar deal from BSC Glasgow, as did Livingston forward Scott Tiffoney. The latter’s contribution to Thistle’s surge up the League One standings cannot be underplayed, providing nine goals and three assists in 13 appearances, but special praise must be reserved for Bell, too.

The first half of the Jags’ campaign was characterised by a steely resolution at the back but an unhappy profligacy in front of goal. The second, meanwhile, started in precisely the opposite fashion: all of a sudden Thistle were free-flowing, but sloppy mistakes started creeping in at the back.

The turning point arrived at Bayview. McCall’s men were 2-0 down at the break, lying sixth in the table and eight points behind pace setters Falkirk. Mouhamed ‘Sena’ Niang, culpable for both East Fife goals that evening, was brought off and replaced by Bell at half-time. The Jags snatched a point at the death then with Bell in the heart of a defence, embarked on a run of six clean sheets in seven games as they marched irresistably to the title.

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Bell, however, is modest when appraising his impact. He insists all the new signings played their part in getting Thistle’s title tilt over the line, identifying the chemistry within the dressing room as a crucial factor in the run-in.

“Apart from Chris Erskine, who got an injury just when we restarted, I’d say all the boys that arrived mid-season – Ross MacIver, Andy Geggan, Scott Tiffoney, me – we’ve all played our part,” he said.

“When you add a few different characters to a dressing room you always hope it helps. It doesn’t always but I think the gaffer’s managed to get four of us in with a good blend. We have different experiences to add to what was already there – which, by the way, was already a top squad more than capable of winning this league.

“A few people have spoke to me about that [my impact] but I’m just doing my job. I know what my strengths are and I certainly know what my weaknesses are as well. But me, Richard Foster and Daz [Brownlie] as the back three with Banzo [Stuart Bannigan] and Doc [Ross Docherty] in front – we’ve got a really good chemistry among the five of us.

“We’ve played a lot of games over the course of our careers. The likes of Ross Docherty – I’ve played with Doc for the best part of two and a half years and I know how to get the best out of him on the pitch. I know how he plays and I think we’ve got a good partnership there.

“As a defender when you’re watching strikers create the chances we’ve created and scoring goals, there is more of an onus on you to keep clean sheets. But it’s also the same for the strikers where they’re looking at the defenders winning last-ditch tackles, winning headers, tackling hard, communicating, doing everything they can – it puts a bit of pressure on them to produce the goods up front.”

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Bell’s introduction that wet and windy evening in East Fife is viewed by many supporters as the catalyst that breathed new life into a title charge that looked all but over at the start of April. It was Sena, the young defender who shone so brightly during the first half of the campaign, who ultimately had to make way – but Bell is adamant that the 21-year-old will have made the most of his time out of the first-team picture.

“Sena is a great lad and he is going to have a big future in the game,” he said. “He’s got all the attributes to do well, he’s just learning his game just now. I might have came in and he might have came out by God, that boy – he’s been very complimentary to me.

“You wouldn’t know he’s been out the team, put it that way. His level of professionalism for somebody so young is excellent. And when you look at the celebrations the other night [when Thistle won the league] he was right at the forefront of it all, absolutely loving it and taking every moment in.

“My relationship with Sena is excellent and that will continue whether I’m here or elsewhere. He’s somebody I’ll always keep in touch with in the game.”

After a topsy-turvy season, Bell is content with catching his breath for the time being. At 36 years old, he knows he is approaching the end of his career but he has no designs on hanging up his boots quite yet.

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The defender’s impact in his short but sweet spell at Firhill has naturally left some fans clamouring for a permanent deal for next season’s crack at the Championship. The man himself admits he’d love to stick around to help the Jags return to the top flight but concedes that his immediate future remains up in the air.

Bell said: “It’s been an absolute roller-coaster of a season for me. I started the season at Ayr and through work commitments I had to leave. Then I went to East Kilbride and their league was shut down.

"I found jumping from the Championship to the Lowland League quite a hard drop to be honest. Then coming back to such a big club like Partick Thistle – I grew up in Glasgow and when I had the opportunity to come here, I couldn’t knock that back.

“I don’t know [where I’ll be next season]. I’ve really loved my time here but I just need to sit and see what happens over the summer. Thistle will be looking to push for promotion next season: that’s a certainty. And with the size of this club they should be.

"There’s some really good people about the club and the fans will expect that. As for whether I’m here for that … we’ll chat about that in the coming weeks.”