Keith Watson’s abrupt departure from Tannadice 18 months ago caught him on the hop.
But the former Dundee United defender is refusing to gloat about Dundee United’s demise after he secured a return ticket to the Premiership with Tayside rivals St Johnstone.
Watson has penned a two-year contract with the Perth side after impressing manager Tommy Wright during a 12-month stay at St Mirren.
And from personal experience he warned United escaping the Championship will demand major surgery over the summer.
Watson, 26, who lifted the 2010 Scottish Cup with United and endured the pain of a losing final against Saints two years ago, said: “I take no pleasure in seeing United going down.
“I was there a long time. I met a lot of great people there and had actually hoped to be playing against them next season.
“The Championship isn’t an easy league to get out of. St Mirren fans expected us to be up at the top challenging but it is a tough league and maybe teams coming down don’t realise that.
“Hibs have been down for longer than they expected and Dunfermline are only just coming back after doing down another level. I’m sure there will be big changes at Tannadice. There will have to be if they want to get back up.”
The cup final loss to Saints triggered the start of a major upheaval at Tannadice under then boss Jackie McNamara.
But neither McNamara or successor Mixu Patelainen could halt the subsequent decline.
Watson recalled: “We had a very good team, with plenty good young players when I was at United. But there aren’t many left from that team which lost to St Johnstone just two years ago.
“It’s crazy the amount of players who have left since that cup final defeat.
“United lost a lot of quality but at the start of the season I didn’t think they would be fighting relegation, that’s for sure. No one expected it.
“The season I left I’m sure we were sitting second or third. But then the start of the exodus began with Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong going in the January. They are exciting players and they’ve been hard to replace.
“It was strange when I left for Hibs. I had played 16 games or so and I was a regular in the team. But Jackie McNamara brought in Ryan McGowan for my position.
“I saw the manager after a game on the Monday morning and it was a real shock. I spoke to Alan Stubbs at Hibs, collected my stuff on the Tuesday and I haven’t been back since.”
Watson, who is delighted to sort out his future with a summer wedding looming to fiancée Lesley-Anne, is braced for good natured flak from Perth players reminding him of their cup triumph.
“I’m sure there might be a bit of banter from some of the lads reminding me. It’s not a great memory for me that’s for sure.
“But I also won a Scottish Cup with United in 2010. That was the highlight of my time at Tannadice.
“I came off the bench against Ross County so I was part of an amazing experience.
“But I am a St Johnstone player now. I spoke to Tommy a couple of months ago over a coffee and he spoke about the club and his plans. I liked the sound of what he had to say.
“When I went to St Mirren last summer I was hoping the club would get back to the top flight.
“I was also looking to prove my fitness and remove any of the doubts which seem to have been in the minds of some managers.
“I have enjoyed my time in Paisley but this is my chance to get back into the top league with a club that is always in the top six and fighting for Europe each season. It was a no-brainer for me.
“I have scored five goals since January so that was a bonus. It would be good to continue that with St Johnstone.”