Max Kucheriavyi knew there would be no special favours for him when Craig Levein and Andy Kirk arrived at McDiarmid Park as St Johnstone’s new management team.
And the young Perth star actually feared he would have MORE to prove as a consequence of his connections with the duo.
Levein brought the Ukrainian midfielder to Scotland when he was director of football at Hearts.
And Kucheriavyi was coached by Kirk at Tynecastle and then Brechin City, where the former Dundee United manager was an advisor.
The 21-year-old might have had a better insight than most in the Saints squad regarding the post-Steven MacLean set-up.
But he was well aware that every player would be judged with fresh eyes.
“He (Kirk) is a very good coach and it’s great to work with him again,” said Kucheriavyi.
“Everybody will have their own first impressions.
“That’s three different teams I’ve worked with him at.
“Every time it is about learning as much as possible, as it is with every coach.
“He gives us a lot of information and everything is positive so far.
“I knew that there definitely wouldn’t be any favouritism towards me.
“I actually had a slight feeling that it could go the other way and that I would have to make sure I was 120% in every training session and every game.”
Back in the team
Last weekend, Kucheriavyi slotted into the Saints midfield at Tynecastle for his first start since MacLean was sacked.
“It felt like we were close to getting a result,” he said.
“The performance was quite good apart from the start when we were a little bit nervous.
“But once we settled it was an even game. It could have gone either way.
“The manager wants us to pass the ball and to involve the midfield more. That’s what we’re trying to do.
“Hopefully we’ll keep improving in how we do that.”
An October, 2022 McDiarmid Park clash with Celtic was Kucheriavyi’s first and last start of the Premiership season for Saints.
“I was going out to prove myself against some of the best players in the country,” he recalled.
“I played in a midfield three but it wasn’t a game when we had a lot of possession.
“It was about doing my defensive jobs and not being shy if I did get the ball.
“Looking back, even with the way the rest of the season went for me, it was an experience that I will able to use moving forward.”