IAN McCALL is looking forward to seeing what Aidan Fitzpatrick will bring to his Partick Thistle side after the 21-year-old winger finalised a return to the Championship club earlier this week.

The Thistle Weir Youth Academy graduate shot to prominence in the 2018/19 season, playing a crucial role as Gary Caldwell’s side survived the threat of relegation, and earned a move to Norwich City that summer.

Fitzpatrick’s spell down south didn’t really work out and a loan stint at Queen of the South for the 2020/21 campaign followed before the wide player signed a one-year permanent deal at Palmerston last summer.

He had been training with Thistle as a triallist this summer as the Jags thrashed out a development fee with the relegated Borders club and now that Fitzpatrick has put pen to paper on a two-year deal, McCall is eager to see what the youngster is capable of – starting with today’s pre-season friendly against Motherwell at Firhill.

“I think Aidan earned the club quite a lot of money when he left and I hope to re-develop him,” McCall said. “He knows what he has got to do.

“But to be honest, with the size of the development fee and the wages, it was probably less than we would have had to pay someone else.

“I’m more pleased about getting Aidan because he could be really terrific, he really could. He just needs to make one or two changes to things.

“There were three or four clubs in that time that were willing to meet the compensation fee and take him but he stayed and we eventually got it done. I am looking forward to seeing him play [against Motherwell] at Firhill.”

McCall is also adamant that Cole McKinnon, the central midfielder who arrived on loan from Rangers earlier this week, is a shoo-in for Scot Gemmill’s Scotland Under-21s squad in the near future.

“I don’t doubt that,” he added. “I wouldn’t speak for Scot but I would say he is a stonewall certainty.

“You look at what [Rangers loanee] Lewis Mayo did last year. He got in the Championship Team of the Year and now he is away to Kilmarnock.

“I’ve never been more sure of something than that boy will play for Scotland Under-21s.

“I realised he is different from what we have got. I got a wee bit edgy towards the end of last season when he started to do too well when he played in the first team and scored a goal.

“Gio [van Bronckhorst] took him over to Portugal but we knew we had it done before they left. I spoke to him and his attitude is really important. He is really down to earth.

“One thing is that he is physically developed enough, there is no doubt about that. He will see it is a big difference trying to finish in the top four in the Championship than playing Lowland League.

“It’s a huge difference but I have no doubt he will cope with it.”

McCall is just about finished with applying the final touches to his squad but he is still on the lookout for a couple of new recruits to flesh out the first team.

“We still need a defender because we are light on defenders, we only have six,” he explained. “That might be a loan. And we really need a striker. Then that would be us.

“I think we are stronger than we were. I would say a good bit stronger.

“Last season we with nine games to go we were five points off the top with a game in hand so we weren’t far away.

“We lost out on a striker to Dundee and there are maybe other teams that have more money but we are happy. We have improved a lot.

“A perfect example is Aaron Muirhead. He was brought in as a squad player but his performances are saying to me ‘I’m not a squad player, I want to play in the team’. We didn’t have as much of that last season.”

There will likely be a couple of incoming players, then, but McCall does not expect any members of the first-team squad to leave. Loan moves could be arranged for a few young players on the books at Thistle but the Jags manager is convinced that Scott Tiffoney, arguably the team’s most important player last season, is going nowhere.

“No, not a thing,” McCall replied when asked if there had been any bids for Tiffoney. “He should be back next week hopefully, so should Anton Dowds.

“We have had no bids for Tiffoney and I don’t expect any to be honest. Tiff has his hands full getting into our team.

“No [there won’t be any departures], unless it’s a couple of young ones going out on loan. Ben Stanway won’t be going out on loan, he has joined up with the first-team group. Most of the others will go out on loan. Zander McKenzie won’t, he is only 16 but he is terrific.

“I’ve still to make my mind up about James [Lyon]. It needs to be the right club and the right manager. I thought I had it done with a friend of mine but they had a few injuries and couldn’t do it. I may keep James and put him on a longer contract.

“It’s a hard one with the young ones, whether they will get the game-time that’s needed. We’ll maybe keep them until January and see how they do.

“My hunch is Ben Stanway will probably play [against Motherwell]. He’s young and he has no experience but my hunch is that he can handle it. But mind you, my hunches have been wrong plenty of times over the years.”