Over the past season, one of Partick Thistle’s first truly notable Thistle Weir academy products has made his name known across Scottish football. Liam Lindsay has come into the Jags side over the past two seasons and this campaign, he has really cemented his place as one of the league’s best defenders. The centre-half has been part of one of the Premiership’s best defences and has scored seven goals in the process. Last night we caught a glimpse of a young player who will be looking to follow the Liam Lindsay model to find himself in the first team soon.
We’ve seen a few youth players dip their toes into the first team waters. Jack Hendry was given some league minutes before leaving for England, Kevin Nisbet has had a few substitute opportunities and players like James Penrice, Matthew McInally and Neil McLaughlin have all made cameos of some sort in the latter stages of various seasons but it’s 18-year old Andrew McCarthy who has left an impression.
Last night, McCarthy played his very first Ladbrokes Premiership appearance, starting the game against Scottish champions Celtic away at Parkhead. The midfielder played around 73 minutes putting in a good showing having played an hour for the development side just two days earlier. He tackled well and chased the ball with great endeavour when lining up against the physical Nir Bitton and highly rated Eboue Kouassi. He wasn’t wasteful on the ball and looked mature on the pitch. When he was substituted off he was met with a grand ovation from the travelling Jags fans but it isn’t just that performance that make me think he has a big future.
I’m a person who watches the Thistle development side regularly and, as such, I have a good knowledge of the players in the team and McCarthy has always stood out for me. I’ve never been outspoken in my praise for the youngster as, at the end of the day, performing well in the dev league is a different kettle of fish altogether compared to the Premiership and I wanted to see him given a chance before I make a real judgement. However, he shows a lot of the sought-after strengths when playing in Scott MacKenzie’s side. He can pick a pass, carry the ball and is equally adept at sitting deep or playing further forward as a creative outlet. In the development side, he has shown that he can both create and convert chances when given the ball.
Another huge upside to his game is that he’s always looking for the ball, always trying to get involved with the play as shown against Celtic. When Kris Doolan was tackled inside the opposition half, McCarthy was first to the it, taking control before playing it to Christie Elliott on the wing in the passage of play that lead to the Jags’ equaliser.
When you consider Alan Archibald’s other central midfield options – when everyone is fit – like Sean Welsh, Stuart Bannigan, Ryan Edwards, Adam Barton, Gary Fraser and club captain Abdul Osman, it’s difficult to see where McCarthy fits into the picture. That’s where a loan move becomes important. Archie is usually keen to send the young players of the squad down to the lower leagues to gain experience. It was a move that worked for Liam Lindsay, who spent time with Airdrie and Alloa earlier in his career, and is something that James Penrice is currently benefitting from as he is receiving good reviews from East Fife fans as he has become a part of their push for play-off success. The Thistle management only send their lads out on loan if they feel the move will benefit the player so it’s likely that McCarthy would reap the rewards of time in the lower divisions.
With Thistle’s top six status on the verge of being confirmed, I wouldn’t bet against McCarthy getting some game time after the split, especially after a strong showing in a hugely nerveracking situation at Parkhead. Hopefully we do see a bit more of him and hopefully he can be part of the Thistle midfield as the club enters a new stage.
The emergence of McCarthy around the first team should also boost the production of quality young players at Thistle too. It shows those in the 17s or even the younger ones that if you work hard and keep at it then you’ll get your chance. I think Liam Lindsay’s progression has set a blueprint for players like McCarthy to come into the first team as a bit part player but to slowly move up the ladder and become a starter.