THERE have been a few gentle reminders of Partick Thistle's predicament this season directed to Alan Archibald.
These have been delivered by voices unbroken by the stresses of the SPFL Premiership, and by age.
The Thistle manager will tomorrow seek to guide his side to the end of a winless league run at home which spans 13 top-flight matches and a full 10 months, with the significance of this match with Aberdeen being made clear to him before he even leaves the house. Archibald's twin sons are Thistle supporters and both have taken advantage of their hotline to the team manager.
Their interest in Thistle's fortunes has left Archibald to bring his work home with him, but it has also offered the coach succour since his children do not burden him further with criticism. A match with an Aberdeen side which has flexed its muscle in the cup competitions and pulled themselves up to second in the league table will present Thistle with awkward, searching questions at Firhill. Those have been answered breezily this week by Archibald's children: "They tell you 'it's a big game on Saturday, dad; you need to win'."
The scale of the challenge has been built up in training this week, where the Thistle squad have also worked out their frustration from a weekend defeat by Motherwell. The Glasgow side led with five minutes to go but conceded two headers and lost the game. Thistle also lost the chance to claim an advantage over Ross County, St Mirren and Kilmarnock after those clubs also suffered defeats. They all remain within reach of Thistle, just not close enough for comfort.
It is a cause for agitation within a side which often produces more compelling performances than it does league points. For the moment this has been contained within the dressing room, too, with Archibald acknowledging the support he has had from his club's board despite an indifferent sequence of results.
"The board have been great, from the start of the season they have been fantastic," said the Thistle manager, speaking at an event with Thistle's fitness partner Nuffield Health Fitness and Wellbeing. "Even now, even although the [transfer] window is shut, they want to help with anything the players need or I need.
"They have not panicked. They gave me a remit at the start of the season to stay in this league and play good football. We are still in the league, albeit we are down at the bottom end, and we are playing good football; some of the stuff last week was very, very good. The board's support has been great. All clubs need stability."
Aberdeen have been steady on the pitch too, with the side reaching second place in the league, a Scottish League Cup final and also the quarter-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup. It is often tempting to place focus to prominent individuals - Mark Reynolds and Peter Pawlett were both considered to be worthy of call ups to the Scotland squad this week - although Derek McInnes yesterday gave attention to those thought to be on the fringes.
Both Barry Robson and Jonny Hayes are doubtful for the trip to Firhill tomorrow due to injury, although the effect of their absence last weekend would still be diminished by a 1-0 win over St Mirren. "With certain players we'll have to be aware of the amount of games we're playing in a short space of time," said McInnes. "We have 10 games in six weeks so you have to be sensible with various people. We have a squad which can be utilised. That showed last weekend when we made a couple of changes against St Mirren."