IAN McCALL says that he and his Partick Thistle players are looking forward to today’s SPFL Trust Trophy tie at Stranraer – even if he feels the competition has lost its shine in recent years.

The Jags boss reckons that the tournament devised for teams outwith the top flight used to be more meaningful back when he was a player, and that new initiatives – such as the introduction of teams from Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland, or the inclusion of B teams – have reduced the cup’s standing.

“We look forward to it,” he said. “It’s a competition we want to do well in but there’s no doubt it’s been diluted.

“I played in a final years ago and there were 14,000 there – I think it was Falkirk versus St Mirren at Motherwell. It really mattered then but now I think it’s a bit different. But we still want to go and win.

“Why [is it no longer the same]? You would need to ask the people that run it why they’ve done it.

“When it first started it was an opportunity for clubs outwith the top flight to win something but now with B teams, other teams, this, that and the next … I know why all that has happened but I wouldn’t put that in print.”

The Jags head to Stair Park their squad depleted with Harry Stone, Lewis Mayo and Zak Rudden called up for the Scotland Under-21s squad, and Steven Bell and Ciaran McKenna joining the long-term injured Darren Brownlie on the treatment table. McKenna is expected to return to training on Monday, while Bell remains a few weeks away. Jake Hastie is cup-tied.

McCall admits his squad is down to its bare bones and will be calling upon the services of four academy players to flesh out his bench this afternoon. But the way the Thistle boss sees it, a few strong performances could leave him with a welcome selection headache ahead of next week’s visit to Championship table-toppers Inverness.

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“We only need one [additional] player in the squad but we have competition all over the place,” McCall said of his depleted team.

“The one area we don’t have much is at left-back because the way Kevin Holt is playing, I just cannot see him coming out of left centre-back. He has been absolutely outstanding.

“I think all the players could play but Cammy Smith in particular is absolutely beating the door down.

“They all know that if we can get through Saturday and we do really well, there are going to be five or six players coming back for the Inverness game – it’s going to be a really hard team to pick. They’re nice problems to have, but problems nonetheless.”

As McCall alludes to, the Jags remain in the market for a left-sided defender, either on a domestic loan or by picking up a free agent. However, any potential new signing will find their route to the starting line-up blocked by Richard Foster, who the Thistle boss believes is flourishing alongside Scott Tiffoney on the left wing.

“Listen, Foster on Saturday [against Morton] was just outstanding,” he explained. “He seems to have just organically created this relationship with Tiffoney – and Tiffoney has been a far better player than I thought he was, I have to say – so that part of it is working really well.

“There’s also, with the type of players we have, an argument to be made to change the formation and tweak it a little bit so we’ll work on that as well. I would say left-back is the one bit of the squad where we need a little bit of cover.

“If you look at right-back – we’ve got about four boys that can play right-back. Tunji [Akinola] can do it, Fozzy can do it, Shea Gordon showed he can do it [against Morton], McKenna can do it.”

Some managers rue the day when international selections are made and players zoom off to join up with their national team squads but McCall is not one of them. The way he sees it, the recognition that Stone, Mayo and Rudden have received can only be a good thing – adding that the timing is just right for Stone in particular after the youngster’s errors against Arbroath a fortnight ago.

McCall reasoned: “It’s great for them – particularly young Harry. As a young goalie he went through a tough time at Arbroath and that’s all part of his growth as a keeper.

“I think it’s great to get away with the Under-21s. I hold [manager] Scot Gemmill in the highest regard and I think it’s really good for all three of them, so there are no issues there. It’s great for them and it’s great for the club.”