Callum Davidson has been putting in the spadework to give his St Johnstone players the best chance of beating Celtic this weekend.
The Perth boss and his backroom team shovelled deep snow off the McDiarmid Park artificial training pitch earlier this week.
A “therapeutic” way to start the day for Davidson and his coaches, the manual labour enabled the Saints squad to get the ball out from Wednesday onwards as they prepare to welcome the back-in-form champions to town for the live TV Sunday lunchtime Premiership clash.
“We grabbed some shovels and cleared a big enough area to train on,” said Davidson. “We managed to sort out about a 30-yard by 50-yard part of the pitch.
“The astroturf has been quite playable because the snow has insulated it.
“It was actually quite enjoyable – very therapeutic!
“There was myself, Alec (Cleland), Macca (Steven MacLean) and Bod (fitness coach, Alex Headrick). And Roddy (Grant) joined in as well. Chris the groundsman and his assistant Jordan kept us right.
“If you want to have a good training session you’ve got to get it done.
“With training this week I just need to make sure we are careful on the astroturf. It is a hard surface so the most important thing is to just get them all through for Sunday.”
He can allow himself the luxury of preparing for one game at a time.
Saints have come out the other side of a hectic spell of football during which Davidson had to tailor his team selections to make sure they managed the workload without over-burdening anybody in their small squad.
Now, moving from weekend to weekend, he can allow himself the luxury of preparing one match at a time.
“You can focus better on the games,” said Davidson. “It is hard sometimes when you play Saturday/Tuesday. I am happy with the squad as a whole and I have probably shown that by making a few changes here and there.
“We have managed to be positive and get results and the players coming in have played really well. It is all good.
“We are full of confidence at the moment. When they come into training, the boys are lively.
“I don’t see why they shouldn’t be as they have played well this season and now they are starting to pick up results.
“If we maintain our focus and drive we can hopefully pick up another couple of wins before the split and get a result on Sunday.”
It is now just over a year since Jamie McCart made his St Johnstone debut against Celtic as a second half replacement tasked with helping keep the score down in a contest that had got away from Saints in the opening 45.
The centre-half impressed then and subsequently contributed to a run of results under Tommy Wright that included just one further defeat, again to Celtic. He has been every bit as influential, if not more so, playing for the Northern Irishman’s McDiarmid successor.
“Jamie brings good balance on the left side but he is a very good defender, first and foremost,” said Davidson.
“Jamie works extremely hard and is very good on the ball, stepping in and playing. That’s something we have been getting him to do more of this season.
“But I don’t think people realise how good a defender he is. He’s defending his box really well. All three of them – Jamie, Liam (Gordon) and Jason (Kerr) – have been doing that.
“They have to continue that because it is one of the main reasons we have started to get results.”
McCart was arguably Saints’ key man in the victory at Livingston last Saturday. The fact that he led the way in a variety of Opta statistics – touches, passes and aerial duels – backs up his manager’s point about the variety of his game.
Davidson added: “We had watched Jamie when he was a young lad at Celtic.
“It is a big thing for boys at Celtic and Rangers to go out and play, even if it is in a lower league. It’s so important. They have to go out on loan, get games and improve. Then they have to take a step forward.
“Sometimes players have to take a step back to go forward.
“Jamie is proving that and he can go on and play at a higher level.”
Saints were beaten by an injury-time double the last time Celtic came to Perth but they did manage to secure a point at Parkhead in December.
“That result should give the players confidence,” said Davidson.
“Celtic have changed their formation and seem to have settled on a diamond in the middle of the park.
“That is something we have to look at and then decide how to adapt. Hopefully we can get the formation right to give us a platform to build on.
“We have done that in the last two games against Celtic.
“We were unlucky at home not to get a result and unlucky at Parkhead not to come away with a victory.”
And Neil Lennon won’t have anything to worry about as far as the Covid-19 changing room protocols he brought into question with a scatter-gun tirade last month.
“I don’t get involved in that,” said Davidson. “I just know that what he said wasn’t true. I’m sure they will be alright on Sunday.”
It’s a decision we’ll need to make in the next couple of days.
Meanwhile, Davidson admitted that the delay and uncertainty in getting League One and Two clubs back playing has left youngsters Cammy Ballantyne and Olly Hamilton, who had been loaned to Montrose and Cowdenbeath respectively, in limbo.
“It’s a really difficult one for them,” he said. “If it wasn’t for covid, they would obviously just come back and train full time with us.
“But you increase the risk of people catching it in our bubble. It’s a decision we’ll need to make in the next couple of days.
“At the moment we’re deciding what we’re going to do, how we can train them and look after them.
“Mentally is probably the hardest thing. They just need to stay strong, stay focused and keep driving themselves.
“It’s a little blip for all of the young players. I’d hoped to get Alex Ferguson out on loan in these next few months as well.”