Livingston’s Chris Erskine still mystified over Partick Thistle snub

Chris Erskine began a new chapter in his career on Sunday when making his debut for Livingston and admitted it felt strange to not be wearing a Partick Thistle shirt.

Chris Erskine made his Livingston debut when he was introduced as a second-half substitute in the Scottish Cup defeat by Hearts. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

His new club’s golden top has a yellowish hue but it’s still not the colours of Thistle, where he has spent a total of eight years across three different spells. One man is responsible for the end to the love affair: manager Gary Caldwell. Erskine is still no nearer fathoming why he was not given a chance at a club currently scratching around at the bottom of the 
Championship.

In terms of career advancement, it seems a no-brainer: swapping a crisis club threatened with relegation to the third tier for one with real hopes of finishing in the top six of the Premiership.

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But it’s not as simple as that. Not when so much of your career to date has been wrapped up with Thistle. Barring a three-year spell at Dundee United, part of which was out on loan at Thistle, Erskine has spent his entire career at Firhill. So was it difficult accepting his time there had come to an end?

“Of course it was,” said the 31-year-old. “Thistle is my club and it always will be my club. I was there for seven
years on and off and it was really difficult to leave. But I had literally hundreds of messages from Thistle fans which was really nice. It’s good to know you have made a difference and that you have been part of something that the fans were happy with.

“I’m very proud of what I did and what we achieved at Partick Thistle.”

So what, then, happened? A change of manager, it seems. As so often happens, with one, Alan Archibald, it was a case of Erskine’s face fitting and with another, Caldwell, who replaced Archibald in October, it didn’t.

Caldwell only gave Erskine two starts. Otherwise he used him from the bench, if at all. “You’d have to ask other people about that,” said Erskine. “But what I would say is I wouldn’t have left Partick Thistle if I didn’t have to. I would have happily stayed there for the rest of my career.

“But I would not have come to Livingston if I did not feel I was good enough to play again in the Premiership. If I had thought that I would have gone elsewhere. I’m confident in my own abilities that I can get into this team and play well.

“[Leaving] is nothing to do with how I was playing because the manager at the old club never played me! He only played me twice in 12 games which, to me, is not really a chance for anyone. But I’ve been training hard every day at Thistle and I’ve been training hard here too. 
I will be ready when the 
manager calls on me.”

Gary Holt called on him after 71 minutes of Sunday’s narrow Scottish Cup defeat by Hearts. Erskine replaced Ryan Hardie and looked bright in the short spell he was on the field despite his recent struggle for game time. He is now eyeing his first start for his new club in tomorrow’s league fixture at St Johnstone.

“It felt okay [v Hearts],” he said. “I’ve been made really welcome since I signed for Livingston last midweek. But it’s been good. I’ve enjoyed it. The good thing is it’s a fresh start at a new club. The place is well run and the boys are looked after well.

“Livingston have been doing really well and you can feel that the boys in the changing room are all together. The boys want to well in the league and that’s what’s been happening so far.

“After what happened at Thistle I knew I had to go. The chance to play in the Premiership was an option I could not turn down. Now I have to try to establish myself in the first team.

“It’s a fresh start,” he added. “I don’t know if people know about me here or not but I want to get into the team. And the best way to do that is scoring goals. It may take a bit of patience because the boys have been doing so well but I’m confident that once I get in there I will stay there.”