IAN McCall is pleased to see his old friend Jim Duffy back in the dugout after suffering a health scare last  year – but rued the fact that Covid restrictions will mean there will be no post-match pleasantries between the two managers.

Duffy, 62, had a spell out of the game after suffering a heart attack in June 2020 but was yesterday confirmed as Ayr’s permanent manager after impressing during an interim stint after David Hopkin departed Somerset Park.

Before the pandemic, McCall would regularly host opposition managers in his office for a blether and a catch-up after the game. But with preventative measures still in place to prevent the spread of Covid, the Thistle manager is missing old habits.

“I’ve not spoken to Jim for a wee while. When he had his health problems I dropped him a text and spoke to him. He bragged he needs to lay off the Buckfast and the fags,” McCall joked.

“As you know, Duff is teetotal and lives his life really well, a non-smoker, so it came as a bit of a shock to him. I think at the time he didn’t want to go back into management but maybe getting a chance like this has rekindled his desire to get back doing that.

“We’ll have a chat on Saturday but it’s different now with Covid. Even before Covid, I noticed that there are so many managers that have been doing that for a while, always going in after the game – I think it’s dying out.

“I’d like to think it won’t because we all know how hard the job is and after the game you should be able to come in and have a cup of tea or a glass of wine or whatever. But those days are gone because of Covid just now.”

Hopefully those days will return soon enough. The little interactions between managers and coaching staff behind the scenes can provide a bit of perspective in the wake of a morale-sapping loss, as McCall knows all too well.

“At Partick Thistle, we played Rangers at Firhill in a League Cup game [in 2008] and Kris Boyd scored an unbelievable goal, a volley,” the Jags boss recalled. “Stephen McKeown equalised, David Rowson was one-on-one with the goalie with a minute to go and didn’t quite finish it, then they went up the park and Pedro Mendes scored an absolute pearler for Rangers to win 2-1.

“I always remember after the game I was sitting in the office – I think it was me and Gerry [Britton] who was my assistant at the time – and Walter Smith, Kenny McDowall, Ian Durrant and Coisty all came in.

“McCoist had played in a game the week previously just after his 45th birthday and he’d scored a hat-trick in it. It was a benefit game – I think it might have been for Jamie Dolan.

“I was absolutely gutted in the office because it was a game we could have won, and big Walter knew I was gutted.

“It was silent and McCoist pipes up. “Cally,” he said. “What is it?” I replied. “Do you think there’s a better there’s a better over-45 footballer than me in the world right now?” That kind of lightened the mood a wee bit.”