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Personal experience adds to Archibald's warning about young striker

ALAN ARCHIBALD would trot out a familiar line yesterday.

He had once been required to move a good deal quicker to keep up with the subject of it, when the Partick Thistle manager put together an impromptu team of experienced pros to provide the opposition for Scotland's Under-21s. That was in a bounce match at Largs while he was doing his A licence coaching course and it would bring Archibald face to face with Stevie May for the first time.

Perhaps that is not quite the right phrase, since the St Johnstone striker was given that he was just a lithe wee teenager and had just completed a loan spell in the third division with Alloa Athletic. Both have matured since then - Archibald was still a first-team regular at Firhill - and they will renew hostilities tomorrow in the SPFL Premiership.

There had been little unusual about a manager identifying May as the cardinal threat to his side, but it was intriguing that Archibald should speak from personal experience. His initial meeting with May had introduced the now Thistle manager to a player of certain promise and he has not been surprised to watch the forward blossom in Perth this term. Archibald has done everything to help his own side prune the St Johnstone striker of his most effective traits tomorrow, though.

"I was telling the boys that I played against him when I was doing my A licence," said Archibald. "Billy Stark asked us to play against his [Scotland] under-21s, just a wee game, and it was myself, Lee McCulloch, Barry Robson . . . that was the first time I played against [May]. I thought that he was a really good player then. He was a threat all the time - he looked to go behind, looked to go short and you could tell he had a bit of quality about him. It was meant to give the 21s a wee workout but they gave us one as well.

"We've shown the boys videos of him and some of them knew all about him because we played against him last year [when May was on loan at Hamilton Academical]. Stevie has done brilliant for them; he knows how to work the defence he is playing against, he knows how to work the centre-halves very well and he looks to shoot every opportunity he gets. But first and foremost his work rate is absolutely incredible."

It was a generous appraisal and would be followed by another, with Archibald regarding St Johnstone as something of a role model for his own club. The Perth side command similar home crowds and comparable budgets, with the McDiarmid Park side having thrived in the top flight. "They came up a few years back when we [Thistle] ran them close and have steadied the ship," Archibald added. "Now they are selling players and managers, and have youth products coming through as well."

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