IAN McCALL is confident his Partick Thistle team will be able to put a sustained promotion challenge together next season – as the Maryhill club will not be financially handicapped the way they were during the previous campaign.

When Covid relief funding was shared out to SPFL clubs during the height of the pandemic, Thistle were left clutching the short straw. As a full-time club operating in the third tier, they were awarded a £150,000 grant while Alloa and Arbroath – part-time Championship clubs with significantly lower operating costs – each received £500,000 along with the other second-tier sides.

It left the Glasgow club playing catch-up in a financial sense last year as their divisional rivals all started £350,000 better off than the Jags. Moves such as the groundshare with Queen’s Park were agreed to increase revenue but McCall believes that 12 months on, his team will be amongst the better-financed ones in the league.

“I don’t know [if there will be an equal financial footing this year] but I think that our budget will be in the top half of the league,” McCall reasoned. “If you look at last season, Dunfermline obviously underachieved and Arbroath obviously overachieved – although their budget isn’t as small as some people think. They had a great season.

“I was really pleased with us finishing fourth and I think we could have finished third or even second but I think that’s where we should be finishing in terms of budget.

“Certainly in the top half – and the difference between fourth and fifth is huge because of the play-off. The key to it for us is that our fanbase will expect us to finish higher than fourth next season. I expect us to finish higher than fourth so first, second or third has to be the target.”

There will be a new club in the league next year – and one with deep pockets – in the form of Queen’s Park following the Spiders’ success in the Championship play-offs. Managed by Owen Coyle, Scotland’s oldest club are expected to flex their considerable financial muscle in the coming months.

McCall admits he had mixed feelings ahead of Queen’s Park’s victory over Airdrieonians in the play-off final – because of the spending power available to the south side outfit.

“The Queen’s Park manager is a good friend of mine,” he said. “I was having a cup of tea with him in the office before the play-off game and my head wanted Airdrie but my heart wanted Coyley to go up.

“But I told him, if I’m thinking with my professional head on, I’d rather they stayed down because they might be able to outbid us for some players. That’s yet to be proven though so I don’t know about that.

“Dundee will be the favourites for the title but I think there will be three or four clubs wanting to finish high and we are one of them.”

There are some within the Thistle fanbase who see Queen’s Park’s back-to-back promotions as a threat to the Jags’ status as the city’s third force behind the Old Firm.

As a club on the rise, some supporters are looking nervously over their shoulders but McCall isn’t one of them. As the point is put to him, a mischievous glint lights up the 57-year-old’s eyes.

“Well, I regard Partick Thistle as Glasgow’s first team, so…”