He was frozen out by fall-out from the pandemic – but St Johnstone striker Guy Melamed has finally caught fire.
And after opening his account with vital strikes against Dundee United and Kilmarnock, the former Maccabi Netanya attacker is determined to melt Rangers’ resistance and torch Steven Gerrard’s unbeaten home record.
“It has been difficult for me but I feel comfortable with the team now, much better than when I first arrived,” said Melamed (28), who was forced to self-isolate in a Perth hotel after penning a deal in October.
“I just focus on the next game, which is a huge one against Rangers.
“They are a top team. But we are confident because of our good run of form.”
The striker reckons he has come to terms with Scottish football – and the winter weather.
“It is hard to find snow in Israel,” he said.
“I had never played or trained in snow before. It is the first time I have seen snow falling.
“In Israel the temperature is around 15 degrees in winter, and around 30 degrees, maybe even 40 degrees, in the summer.
“I think Scottish players would find the heat hard to deal with. They would suffer.
“But I also prefer playing when it is cold.
“It took me some time to adapt to Scottish football and it has been difficult to be away from home in these times.
“It is much faster and more physical here than in Israel. The referees don’t give as many fouls.
“But I have got used to it now. I am happy that I have made the switch.
“I want to play as many games as possible now and succeed with St Johnstone.”
Pressure is on Rangers
Melamed insists Rangers have already wrapped-up the title, with Ibrox proving a fortress this season in domestic and Europa League action.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t play against Celtic in Glasgow but I am excited about facing Rangers in their big stadium,” he said.
“It’s just a pity there will be no fans inside.
“It will be difficult. I know Rangers are unbeaten at their stadium.
“But someone needs to do it. And we have good momentum. We need the points.
“But the pressure is on Rangers because they want to win the title.
“I think it is obvious they will win it. Anyone who understands football can see how big the gap is.
“Television at home shows Celtic and Hibs games because they have Israeli players. They are excited by footballers who are abroad.
“I think they want to show St Johnstone games on the channels now.”
Melamed triggered a superb weekend comeback with the opener in a 3-2 win at Kilmarnock, stretching boss Callum Davidson’s unbeaten run to seven games.
“The win against Kilmarnock was the sweetest of the whole season, it was very special,” he admitted.
“We showed our character to come back from being 2-0 down at half-time.
“We believed we could win when the gaffer spoke to us. We were still very positive.
“It was very good for our supporters who watched it. It must have been perfect for the fans.
“For me it is good to have scored goals and have three assists. They are also important to the team.
“The other strikers are all hard workers. And I have a good relationship with them.
“Everyone in the squad runs hard and fights.”
Melamed admits his hopes of sight-seeing off the pitch have been dashed by the pandemic.
“I haven’t had a chance to see Scotland and a beautiful city like Edinburgh, apart from looking out the window going to away games,” he said.
“So I have had to be strong in the head, with a good mentality because of the Covid.
“I hope the vaccines come quickly now and the pandemic is behind us all.”
Boss Callum Davidson hopes Saints have learned lessons from two previous 3-0 defeats from Rangers.
“We can’t give away cheap free-kicks around the box and we need to set-up correctly at throw-ins,” he cautioned.
Davidson warns of Rangers’ threat
“They are really clinical through the team.
“If you give them easy opportunities to score then you will get punished.
“That showed in the first two games. At times I think we have performed well against them.
“Hopefully we can put in a great performance. That is what is needed.
“There are very few games I’ve seen where Rangers have been off-form.
“They have always been there or thereabouts at a high level.
“Our players have got to be mentally attuned to the game and know what they are doing.
“You need to be diligent all the way through the game and limit Rangers to few chances.
“On the flipside, when we get the opportunity to score, we need to take it.”