NIALL Keown has revealed he had no doubts about committing his long-term future to Partick Thistle. The central defender spend the second half of last season on loan from Reading and made the move a permanent one recently after agreeing terms on a two-year contract.

With Liam Lindsay having moved on to Barnsley this summer, Jags boss Alan Archibald moved quickly to secure Keown’s return, and the 22 year-old was happy to sign on again at Firhill.

He said: “I’m very excited to be back at Thistle. I went back to Reading for their pre-season and it became apparent that I wasn’t going to get the opportunities I felt I was ready for.

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“So a quick decision was made. I had been in contact with the club since the end of last season and knew they were keen to get me back and thankfully a deal was made quickly. This was always my first port of call. Having had such a good time last season and knowing all the staff it makes a move easier. It doesn’t feel like I’m at a new club.

“I thought early on in last season’s loan that this was a good place to be. All the players, the staff and the fans were great with me.”

Keown, who will miss the start of Thistle’s Betfred Cup campaign against Livingston tomorrow as he returns from injury, believes the aim at Firhill this season will be to try to emulate or better last year’s sixth-place finish.

He added: “We had a very successful time last season and the challenge for us as a club and a group of players is to try to match what we did last season – or go one better.

“We need to try to start the season as best we can because I’m aware that last season was not our best start. We’ve got difficult fixtures again so we’ve got to be ready from the start to start picking up points as quickly as we can.

“We set the bar high last season but we still look back on it and see plenty of games where we could have picked up plenty more points than we did.

“So we know there is still room for improvement but the league is more competitive this year with Hibernian coming up and that brings an extra challenge. We need to make sure we are even better this season.”

The return of Stuart Bannigan from long-term injury gives Archibald extra options in midfield and Keown revealed his team-mate hasn’t been holding back as he looks to make up for lost time.

The Irish under-21 international added: “Stuart trained with us in the last few weeks of last season and it was quickly apparent to see what sort of player he was. He had just come back from a serious knee injury and we weren’t allowed to go near him and he was flying into tackles on everyone else.

“He was really impressive in training after being out for so long and from what I have seen so far it’s been the same so it’s great to have him back involved.”

While Bannigan is a welcome addition to the Thistle first-team squad, Keown wished his former central defensive partner Lindsay all the best in his new surrounds. The 21 year-old has gone in the opposite direction to Keown by moving to the English Championship.

“It’s a good move for Liam and he made it clear he thought that was the step he had to make in order to carry on progressing. But we will need to step up now and show more leadership with that loss.”