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Partick Thistle FC

Saunders keen to get 19/20 season started

Steven Saunders was a key part of Partick Thistle’s improvements in 2019. The centre-half joined the Jags during the January transfer window and contributed massively to the team as Thistle steered clear of relegation. Saunders played nine times in the league and Thistle only lost twice in those nine, winning four and drawing three. Now with a full pre-season at the Club under his belt, the former Dumbarton man is looking to carry that success into the new season starting with this weekend’s Betfred Cup opener against Airdrieonians at the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill. Saunders spoke exclusively to ahead of the clash with the Diamonds.

To begin, the defender said he was looking forward to getting the competitive games started after a good pre-season.

“I’m looking forward to the new season. We ended last season pretty well and pre-season has been good as well so we’re now just hoping we can carry all the work we’ve done over the summer into these initial four cup games.”

Saunders then went into a bit more depth on Thistle’s pre-season which he says has put them in a good place ahead of the game against Airdrieonians this Saturday.

“It’s been a tough time with lots of fitness based stuff to get us ready physically but I think it’s been a good blend. We’ve done fitness work within the footballing sessions and played 11 v 11s; that sort of thing. Overall, it’s very hard work but it should be worth it when we get out onto the pitch for the first game of the new season.

“As a player, it’s always good to get into the competitive games as early as possible and these cup games are good because you get to play against teams from different levels and it’s better than playing seven or eight friendlies in preparation for the league. Also, for us, we’re looking to use them to build a bit of momentum before the Championship begins.”

Thistle’s squad isn’t a finished product yet but Steven still feels like there’s a really good set of players in place that should be able to progress from Group E.

“We’ve got some real talent in the team and everyone’s bonding well. We’ve got a nice mix of ages too with young guys like Shea Gordon and James Penrice as well as experienced guys like Kenny Miller who’s just joined. Kenny in particular has been great; having his experience in the dressing room and his winning mentality is a great boost and hopefully he can provide a fair few goals too.”

Tam O’Ware has returned to full training in recent months and is set to make his return from injury in the Betfred Cup groups. Saunders joined during Tam’s rehab process so hasn’t had any competitive minutes with the ex-Morton man yet but he has been impressed by the number four in training.

“Tam’s a great player. He’s someone who played a lot of Championship football at Morton and having him back has been terrific. It will be like a new signing for the gaffer and it gives us a bit more depth at centre-half. For him, getting to play competitive minutes will be great because he’s been out for so long.”

Airdrieonians represent the first of four challenging opponents in the Betfred Cup group stages for the Jags and Saunders is expecting a good game against the League One side.

“I think Airdrie will be a good standard of opponent. They’ve made a few decent signings and they’ll be pushing for the top spots in League One so it will be a good test for us in our first game. Everyone’s looking forward to kick-off.”

More exclusive preview interviews with Joe Cardle, Stuart Bannigan and Jags manager, Gary Caldwell, will be available to Jagzone subscribers ahead of Saturday’s match – log in now to see them.

Jagzone members will also be able to watch extended highlights of the game.

Can’t make it to the The Energy Check Stadium at Firhill? Jagzone members can listen to live audio commentary of the match. JagZoneLIVE begins at 2:45pm on Saturday.

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