NOBODY at Firhill wants Partick Thistle to negotiate their way through the cinch Premiership play-offs and secure a return to the top flight of Scottish football more than their manager Kris Doolan.

He spent 11 seasons as a player in Maryhill, including five in the Premiership, and knows just how much clinching a place alongside the likes of Aberdeen, Celtic, Hearts, Hibernian and Rangers in the 2023/24 campaign would mean to the players, supporters and staff.  

But Doolan, whose team take on Queen’s Park in the first leg of the quarter-final at home this evening, is also acutely aware that sporting success is insignificant when compared to other more serious matters in life just now.

The legendary Jags striker yesterday revealed that his father is seriously ill at the moment and that he has been at his bedside in hospital when he has not been preparing for the encounter with his side’s Glasgow rivals.

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The 36-year-old is grateful for the support which he has received from everyone at Thistle during this difficult time and is determined to oversee a triumph in the double header and progress to a semi-final against Ayr United next week so he can repay them for their backing.

“Unfortunately, my dad is in hospital very, very ill just now,” he said. “That has been really tough. I have been trying to deal with that as well as the football side of things. That is making it trickier.

“But we don’t moan about it, we just get on with it, we try our best to balance everything. But when I have been at home I have mainly been at hospital trying to spend time with him because it is serious. There is not a lot of time so for us it is really important that we spend time with him.

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“Being in the play-offs is exciting. Football should be exciting, it should be fun, it should be something that people want to come and watch and be involved in. I loved playing it, I love managing. But I just think that football is a luxury at times.

“You have to enjoy that and the only way to enjoy that it is to win. That is the kind of environment I want to set up at Thistle. We want people to come to their work and be happy because, as I say, football is a real luxury at times.

“Everyone has been great with me. We were thrown in at the deep end and the response and professionalism of the players and the help of the staff around the place has been great. The fans have played their part. It has been a real team effort from everyone.

“If we can take the club somewhere, everybody gets to enjoy it and that’s the key for me.”

Doolan, whose team secured fourth place in the Championship table and a place in the play-offs when they drew 2-2 with Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park on Friday night, only moved in to management back in February when Ian McCall departed.

So dealing with so much on and off the park has been challenging for him. However, he stressed that he is grateful for the opportunity which he has been given by Thistle and is relishing every minute of the role he has been given. 

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“There is no time at all,” he said. “It is 24 hours a day. It is tough because you don’t get a minute’s peace. But that is the job.

“I am enjoying what we are doing. We are working with the players every day. We are trying to get better every day and I will continue to try and get better as well.

“That learning environment is what we try to create. We try to create an environment where everybody wants to get better, everybody wants to improve. I am not any different. I will spend as much time as I can improving myself as a manager.”

Thistle thrashed Queen’s Park, who lost their title decider against Championship leaders Dundee 5-3 at Ochilview on Friday night, 4-0 at Firhill last month to boost their play-off hopes and Doolan believes his charges can draw on that performance.

“We will take confidence from that,” he said. “That is what we are capable of with the type of players that we have. Our style of play worked well. Hopefully we will see more of that. But it is about getting results and getting through the game and picking up the win. We understand that it is all about winning.

“But we are in really good form, we have got a full squad now, spirits have been good in training and everything seems to be good. Queen’s will have been disappointed not to have got the result they wanted on Friday night, but they are there on merit. But it is more about what we do.”