Partick Thistle defender Willie Kinniburgh is hoping that the winter freeze does not remain much longer as it brings back painful memories of the most frustrating period of his career.
The 26-year-old said: “At the start of last season, I tore cartilage in my hip and that kept me out for four months. I was told I would be out for six but the Partick physio Kenny Crichton was brilliant and got me back ready to play at Christmas time last year and then of course, the big freeze happened.
“I was back ready to play but we could not get any games played and that meant almost another two months without a game so I hope this spell of bad weather does not last as long.”
Kinniburgh has been around long enough to know how frustrating it can be not to play as he signed for Motherwell over 10 years ago and took loan spells at both Ayr United and the Jags to get playing.
The defender said: “I was 15 years old when I started and signed a two year Youth Training Scheme deal at Motherwell. Billy Davies was the Manager at Fir Park then and it was a good opportunity for me as coming from Hamilton, it was not too far to travel.
“There were three of us taken on; Jamie Ewings, who is now in goals for Alloa, and Liam Fleming, however, he does not play anymore.”
The final day of the 2001/02 season saw Kinniburgh make an appearance for the Lanarkshire first team as he explained, “I made my debut when I was 17 in a home game against Dundee in May 2002 and we won 2-1.
“It was a pretty cosmopolitan Dundee team with the likes of Fabian Caballero and Georgie Nemsadze playing for them. It was a great to play against what was a really strong team and to beat them.”
The following November, Kinniburgh went to Ayr United on loan to get first team experience and he enjoyed it saying, “I was only 19 and went out to Somerset Park and played games in the First Division. It was great at the time as I had been on the bench at Motherwell so to go out and play was what I needed.
“I went back to Motherwell and played more regularly in season 2004/05.
“I played in the final game of the season when we beat Celtic 2-1 to deny them the SPL title and that was a really surreal day. They had some team that day with the likes of Craig Bellamy and Chris Sutton playing but we came from a goal behind to win.”
The start of the following season saw Kinniburgh make his mark again against the Parkhead men as Motherwell drew 4-4 in the opening League game of the campaign as he scored one of the four goals. That season was to mark the defender’s best spell as a Fir Park player as he featured in 22 games.
Kinniburgh remembers his other goals in claret and amber as he explains, “I also scored two other goals for Motherwell, one up at Aberdeen in a 1-1 draw and the winner in a 2-1 game up at Inverness Caledonian Thistle.”
Mark McGhee took over Motherwell at the start of the 2007/08 term and Kinniburgh began to feature less and with 18 months left on his Fir Park contract, he was offered the chance to go to Partick Thistle on loan.
“I spoke to Ian McCall in the autumn of 2007 and he was keen to get me on board and Mark left the decision up to me.
As like the time with Ayr, I wanted to get playing again. I went and played a few times on loan and quickly decided that I would move over permanently and I did that in January 2008,” said Kinniburgh.
It is a move he has rarely regretted commenting, “My time at Thistle has been great, really enjoyable and I would like to think I have made lifelong friends here.”
In that first season, Thistle finished in mid table and the following season they chased hard behind a St. Johnstone side that won promotion to the SPL.
Finishing second was of little consolation for Kinniburgh who said: “We were a wee bit unlucky that season and St. Johnstone were incredibly resilient. We just lacked that wee bit of depth that would have pushed us to the top of the table.
Season 2009/10 was one of frustration for Thistle and Kinniburgh as the Jags failed to mount a promotion challenge and the defender missed a large chunk of the season because of the hip injury.
Once he was fit enough to resume playing, Kinniburgh donned the colours of Clyde and he was amongst familiar faces as he explained, “I went there and played 14 times under John McCormack and Neil Watt and there were a few Thistle faces there as Kris Doolan and Paddy Boyle both had loan spells at Clyde.
“We were still training with Thistle during the week and I ended up staying with Clyde until the end of the season. It was not the best of times for the club but it was good for me to be playing again after missing most of the first half of the season.”
Kinniburgh’s younger brother, Steven, had further to go to get regular first team football with the 21-year-old now playing for Oxford United in the English Football League Division Two after three years as a player at Rangers.
SFL First Division fans may well have seen the younger Kinniburgh during a month long loan spell with Queen of the South in December 2008 when he played twice and he also spent three months at St. Johnstone as they worked their way towards the First Division title however, a ball was not kicked in anger there for the first team.
“Steven is doing well at Oxford,” said older brother Willie before adding, “He went down there initially on loan and then got signed permanently on a two year deal. We have never got the chance to play against each other although we can save that for another time.”
Could that ever be in England Kinniburgh was asked?
He replied: “I have never had the opportunity and if it ever came up, you would have to consider it. I have a young family now so that would be a consideration as well but Thistle will get all my attention just now.”
This season has seen Kinniburgh recover from the low of a red card on the opening day of the League season at Raith Rovers to the high of his first Jags goal.
He said: “This season has certainly been mixed for us. We started off really inconsistently and then were playing well and not picking up points. We then started grinding out results so it is a case of onwards and upwards for Thistle.
“I got that first goal at Ross County in The ALBA Challenge Cup Semi-Final to put us ahead and having waited sixty odd games to do it in it was quite a good feeling. It was only from six inches out but they all count.
“It was a real sickener to go out in a penalty shoot-out after they scored a last minute equaliser after Paddy had put us in front again.”
Thistle have a chance of revenge as they take on Ross County (under new Manager Willie McStay) if the weather allows. Having missed out on two months of his season last year because of snow and ice, Kinniburgh is in no mood to let it happen again.
“I don’t think anyone is enjoying this,” said Kinniburgh, before adding, “But we may have to get used to it as it looks to be here for a wee while. Last season I went from December to February fit for a game and without playing so it is hard.
“It is also hard for the clubs with no money coming in so I reckon we could all do with a break from the weather.
“There should be a good chance of this game going ahead as our pitch is in pretty good condition and there will be a lot of work done to the surrounding area. The biggest issue could be if Ross County can make it down.
“It is costing the club a lot of money to have the undersoil heating on and it would be good to get a lot of fans into support us on Saturday to help with that.”
Kinniburgh issued a rallying call to Firhill fans saying, “We need the fans to back the club although we all realise there is a recession and people cannot turn out in the numbers they used to.”
County will be dangerous opponents as Kinniburgh explained, “They have a new Manager in place and that changes the dynamics of the game. I would gladly just settle for the three points from this game as opposed to scoring again.”