IAN McCall will always be grateful to Ayr United for offering him a route back into football following a spell out the game as he dealt with personal issues.

But the Thistle boss insists that he’ll be putting sentiment to one side when his former club come to Firhill on league duty this afternoon.

McCall took the reins at Somerset Park in January 2015 after a period of three years away from the sport, and enjoyed a successful spell in Ayrshire before returning to Firhill.

Jim Duffy, who yesterday was handed the Ayr job on a permanent basis, is an old pal but McCall insists that come three o’clock, he’ll be fully focussed on collecting three points - despite all that Ayr have done for him.

“Jim is a good pal of mine so whether I what I say is relevant, I don’t know,” McCall said. He certainly had the edge over me in Dundee derbies!

“He’s a really good football guy and Ayr are obviously a club I’ve got huge affection for. Whether I helped them is up for debate but I know they helped me at a difficult time in my life so I’ll never, ever forget that. 

“When I was first went back [as Thistle manager] and they beat us 4-0 at Somerset, there wasn’t much sentiment that day!

“I can put it really, really well. Partick Thistle are my club, right? If – and this is a big if – I’m here for another few years and the powers that be grant me a testimonial, there’s only one team I would have and it would be Ayr United. That shows you what I feel they gave to me – the club and Lachlan Cameron.

“The way I look at it, this is the second part of my life. I’ve only got one former team and its Ayr United.

“When you’re given a second chance at things you enjoy every game. I didn’t enjoy young Andrew Dallas’ refereeing performance against Raith but you do enjoy the game, and every game has its own issues to negotiate. Saturday will be no different.”

Recent defeats to fellow promotion hopefuls Inverness, Kilmarnock and Raith Rovers have left Thistle playing catch-up in the race for the play-offs but McCall is confident his side can get back on track with a victory today.

“If you can win five games in a quarter [of the season] you’re in with a good shout of the play-offs,” he added. “That’s the target for us but that’s the target for everybody.

“We’re only looking at this one game – Duff’s turned it around a wee bit so it will be a tough game.”