After the best part of four years of despair, disappointment and despondency, it took just 35 days for Partick Thistle’s luck to change. It wasn’t so long ago that Alan Archibald guided the Jags to a top-six Premiership finish – the club’s highest final league position in decades – and yet, at the end of March, Thistle found themselves mired in mid-table in Scotland’s third tier.

After coming from two goals down to snatch a point away to East Fife at the start of April, some supporters had turned on manager Ian McCall. The latest season was just the latest in a long line of underwhelming campaigns and green shoots of progress were few and far between, they reasoned.

Little did they know it then but that point gained at Bayview would be the catalyst that sparked Thistle’s League One title tilt. The following five games were won on the trot without the Jags conceding a goal, and a wonder-strike from Scott Tiffoney in the sixth game away to Cove salvaged a point that seemed so unlikely only minutes before the on-loan Livingston winger let fly.

That teed up a do-or-die clash with Falkirk at Firhill where the trophy’s destination would be determined. Supporters tuned into the game expecting a cagey affair but what followed was entirely atypical of the club. Not only did McCall’s men get over the line, they did it in the most uncharacteristic fashion, slamming five past the Bairns as they wrapped up the league in style. It was all very unlike Partick Thistle, as McCall admits.

“It’s not really like us – certainly not in my experience,” he explained. “When I was here before we ran St Johnstone close to the title.

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“We’ve never won the Challenge Cup – we went up to Ross County and we were 2-1 up, and we made a bit of an error. I won’t say who. Then Liam [Buchanan] misses a great chance to put us through and then that’s it. That’s probably more us, I think.

“But listen, the togetherness and harmony from the players was just fantastic and we’ve got to harness that. The supporters, the directors, the staff, my staff – we’ve all got to harness that to keep moving forward.

“I’m ecstatic that we won League One but in the grand scheme of things it’s not a huge cause for celebration at this club. If we win the Championship then it will be.

“But I think [Zak] Rudden was indicative of the turnaround. Steven Bell, Scott Tiffoney and Rudden were crucial and when Bell came in – I’m not saying [Richard] Foster got better because he was different class all season – but [Darren] Brownlie got better. He’s the best centre-back in the league and as good as there is in the Championship.

“It was a fairytale ending to the season and it just kept getting better and better.”

Things didn’t always look so rosy. For the majority of the campaign, Thistle had toiled to collect points and there was always a sense that the team were operating as less than the sum of their parts. McCall, however, is adamant that he saw the turnaround coming, even if it took a while for his grand designs to come to fruition.

McCall said: “When I first came in I knew huge, huge changes were required. It’s taken a wee while to get that togetherness and that spirit – there might not be many things I do well but I do that well.

“Tactics and all that are very important in terms of finding the balance of the team but the type of people that you are – that was the biggest change that needed made when I first came here. And it was a big, big, big one.

“The stop-start nature of the season made it hard. In the first half of the season, everyone was coming in for stick – no one more so than me – but I always felt, if I’m being really honest, that it was wrong. The amount of injuries we had and the amount of games where all we were missing was that finishing touch … I always go back to the Dumbarton game [in December]. It finished 0-0 but 7-0 wouldn’t have flattered us.

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“One of the things that always gave me belief was our performances against Falkirk on Boxing Day. They obviously went on a bad run at the end of the season but we played them out there when we were supposedly not playing well, and we drew 2-2.

“Their first goal was an absolute fluke from 20 yards and the boy was offside. We went 2-1 up and missed a penalty and then they equalise in the 88th minute, even though we’d murdered them. I always reminded the players about that game.

“The only thing I didn’t expect was to score 25 goals and concede two in eight games – that was beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve been on a few good runs with teams before but to do it when the pressure’s on and games are coming thick and fast – it was pretty remarkable stuff.”

During that late surge up the standings, McCall was leaving nothing to chance. Players weren’t put up for pre- or post-match press conferences – something this intrepid reporter can attest to – as the Thistle manager resolved to maintain his side’s course. He admits that he felt the pressure when things weren’t going so well – even if he argued that it didn’t affect him.

“I didn’t allow any players to do press and I did hardly anything either, apart from the stuff I had to do with our own media guys,” McCall said. “Everybody stayed really focused and the games came so thick and fast – after two weeks you’ve won five in a row and you’ve not conceded a goal.

“It culminated in a great night up at Cove where we scored a really good equaliser and then the following game at Falkirk tells its own story.

“This season, I think the chasing of managers has been really out of order. A couple of really good friends of mine got it tight in Derek [McInnes] and Neil [Lennon] but I’ve been through that situation before; it’s nothing new to me. You just have to hold your head, remain strong and have that belief.

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“We managed turn it around and pull through but let’s be honest, it wasn’t looking great away to East Fife at half-time. But Rudden got a run out that day, Joe Cardle came on and changed the game and Steven Bell came into the team.

“Bell really got Brownlie to even better levels and in the next seven games, we won six and drew one and only conceded twice. Bell played every minute and Foster played every minute which is incredible, given their age.”

Within days of wrapping up the title, McCall was delighting supporters on the BBC Scotland airwaves as he questioned why he would ever need a CV again as Thistle would be his final job. The comments understandably went down well with the club’s fanbase, given McCall’s long-time association with the Maryhill side, but did he really mean them or was he simply playing to the gallery? In years to come, will he really still be occupying the home dugout at Firhill?

McCall laughed: “I’ll be here in 20 years but I’ll be sitting up the back of the stand! If there was something else I could do for the club after management, I’d do it if they’ll have me. I never want to leave Thistle again.

“The first time I had to leave I had to because of my personal situation, which was really bad. But I got better and it’s the proudest thing I’ve ever done in my life, apart from my son.

“There might be a position where I can take 30 per cent of [chief excutive] Gerry Britton’s workload rather than leaving it all to him. But I still want to do this for a couple of years, that’s for sure.”