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Thistle's Ryan Stevenson: Cool, calm, collected by a new club

THE closest they come to a crisis at Partick Thistle these days is when the boardroom runs out of peppermint tea.

Ryan Stevenson chose  a move to Partick Thistle as he enjoyed playing them last season. Picture: SNS
Ryan Stevenson chose a move to Partick Thistle as he enjoyed playing them last season. Picture: SNS

They have had their financial problems at Firhill in the past - it took the fans-led "Save the Jags" campaign to save the club from oblivion in the late 1990s - but in more recent times they have been a picture of relative serenity. Sure, money is still tight but there have been precious few headlines of late about impending financial meltdown, nefarious directors, supporter unrest, or a general uncertainty about the long-term future. And not every club in the land can say the same.

Ryan Stevenson is looking forward to the peace and calm. The forward was at Firhill yesterday having eschewed other offers both at home and abroad to sign a two-year contract to join Alan Archibald's side. He had 12 months remaining on his contract at Hearts but, with new major shareholder Ann Budge outlining a major streamlining of the business, the 29-year-old could only see it out if he agreed to take a wage cut. Instead, he ended up becoming a free agent.

It is with a mixture of relief and fondness that he looks back on his time at Hearts. Drama was rarely far away during his four-and-a-half years at Tynecastle, the player such a glutton for punishment that he ended up spending two spells there.

From the capriciousness of the Vladimir Romanov era, when wages regularly went unpaid or arrived late in the bank, to the subsequent tumble into administration and last season's fight to avoid relegation, it was rarely dull. Stevenson speaks fondly of his days as a Hearts player and the relationships he forged during his time there, but there is a part of him relieved to now be at a club where the only concerns centre on how well the team is performing each week.

"Playing for Hearts was the highlight of my career so far," he said. "It's a great club and I made so many great friends there. But I certainly won't miss the off-field stuff. At times you couldn't [put it out of your mind]. When Romanov was there, then administration and the points deduction it was like having a cloud hanging over you.

"It was difficult when you were right in the midst of it. But when we went into administration it was like a weight off everyone's shoulders. You knew then the club was out the hands of Vladimir. The darkest times were when he was still there. But the club's in a better place now with Mrs Budge there.

"I didn't expect [to be let go] but I'm old enough to take it on the chin. I've nothing but good feelings for Hearts. They gave me four and a half years at an amazing club. All I can do is wish them all the best. Now for me it's about doing well for Partick and hitting the ground running."

Stevenson will be a key figure as Thistle look to build on a solid first season back in the top division. Archibald and his players earned plenty of plaudits for the manner in which they tried to stick to an attacking blueprint, their reward to finish outside of the relegation and play-off places. The signing of Stevenson is a signal of intent that they will look to build on that next year and the player is happy to have committed himself to the cause.

"In January I had a chance to leave Hearts and Partick had shown a bit of interest," he revealed. "Then when it came to the summer Maxi [Ian Maxwell, Thistle's managing director] and the manager were speaking to me again. I enjoyed playing against Partick last year and enjoyed the style of football they played.

"It's a club that I think is going forward. So when I sat back and looked at all the places I would have liked to have played in the SPL then this was probably one of the better ones. I'm raring to go and hoping to bring success to Partick."

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