St Johnstone captain Jason Kerr described Jamie McCart as one of the best signings in the January transfer window in Scotland. Courier Sport pick a top five for Tayside and Fife.
1 Jamie McCart
You would have struggled to find a single St Johnstone fan happy to see Matty Kennedy sold to Aberdeen in January. The fact that some of the transfer fee Saints banked for their best attacker was reinvested in bringing pre-contract signing Jamie McCart to Perth from Inverness a few months early will see few, if any, questioning the wisdom of letting Kennedy leave now.
Yes, the Saints defence was improving before McCart arrived but it says everything about the standard of his performances that any time Tommy Wright switched from a three in the middle to a two, the 22-year-old was immovable.
Credit to John Robertson and Championship football for turning a young defender with a wide skillset for the centre-back position into a battle-hardened competitor who is as street-wise as he is composed.
Whatever Saints paid, it was a bargain.
2 Christophe Berra
Berra may have lost the pace Daniel Stendel needed for the high-line defence he was deploying at Hearts (whether that was wise is another story) but the former Scotland centre-back remains one of the most effective organisers and penalty box defenders in the country.
On his debut against Morton you could see he was short of match fitness but, despite being introduced to his team-mates only a few hours earlier, he was instantly the calming and controlling presence the Dundee defence needed.
A set-piece goal was conceded by the Dark Blues in a 1-1 draw that afternoon but it has been clean-sheets (and no defeats) ever since.
Not only has Berra been the main reason for that with his individual displays, he has also markedly helped improve those around him.
Dundee fans will be hoping Stendel stays at Tynecastle, otherwise their chances of keeping their most important player at Dens will diminish.
3 Craig Wighton
Dundee’s loss was Arbroath’s gain when Hearts agreed to let Wighton leave on loan but blocked a Dens return for the Doon Derby hero.
As far out of Stendel’s Hearts first team plans as Berra, plenty of people were surprised that the former Scotland under-21 international was willing to drop down to part-time football and that the Red Lichties were able to persuade him to come to Gayfield.
Both club and player have been big winners.
The Arbroath team had suffered a December and January form slump and Wighton helped revive them. Dick Campbell’s men haven’t lost with the 22-year-old in the side and who will forget his winning goal against Dundee United at Tannadice. For his own career, the fact that he has shown he can prosper in the hard school of Championship football is a big box ticked.
The management there would love to keep him but you suspect that Wighton will be back playing Premiership football – or in the dark blue of Dundee – next season.
What can be taken as certain is he’ll be a better player for his five games at Arbroath.
4 Steven MacLean
There is a Hearts theme developing here.
It came as a shock that a player who had been getting game-time in the Premiership not that long ago dropped all the way to League One.
MacLean featured on seven occasions for Raith Rovers and his two goals have helped secure them promotion.
Without the veteran forward’s winner against Clyde and his strike in the 1-1 draw against Falkirk it would have been the Bairns, not Rovers, in the position to be crowned champions by the slimmest of margins when the SPFL curtailed the lower league seasons.
Playing alongside MacLean will also have been a football education for up-and-coming Fife star Kieron Bowie before he heads to Fulham.
5 Matt Butcher
The previous January, Tommy Wright had hoped Sean Goss would be the final piece in the jigsaw for his team that season, and help progress a side that was in no danger of going down into a top six one.
It didn’t happen. Goss proved to be a big disappointment.
This January, Matt Butcher arrived with less expectation but his impact has been far greater.
From the moment he got his foot on the ball and dictated the tempo as a second half substitute against Motherwell, you could see why he was on the books of an English Premiership club.
Butcher shone against both Rangers and Celtic and it is one of the big frustrations of the season ending prematurely that Saints fans won’t see more of him this campaign.
Hopefully a further loan to Perth can be agreed. He probably lacks the athleticism to make it in the top flight down south but the Englishman looks like a perfect fit for the Premiership in Scotland.