Murray Davidson was thrilled to see St Johnstone fans back at McDiarmid Park for the first time in 16 months.
There were just 1000 lucky ballot winners scattered around the stadium for Tuesday’s 1-1 friendly with Preston North End.
But they made themselves heard.
The masked and socially distanced supporters relished the chance to finally hail manager Callum Davidson and his double cup winners.
Their heroes enjoyed a 32nd minute ovation to mark wingback Shaun Rooney’s cup final winners and another at the full-time whistle for a manager who missed out on a fans’ welcome when he took command last summer.
“It was good to see the fans again. I didn’t actually realise how long it had been,” admitted midfielder Davidson, whose testimonial plans went on hold when the pandemic struck.
“It makes a difference when you run out and hear the fans. We got a good ovation.
“I’m sure they were buzzing to get back in. Hopefully we can start building the numbers up because football is far better with fans.
“If you ask any player they would much rather play in front of a crowd than no crowd.
“We were privileged to be able to play last year but, after a few games, you realise how much the fans have an impact.
“It alters your reactions, even if it’s opposition fans.
“You react if someone is shouting abuse at you or cheering you.
“I’d rather 10,000 fans shouting abuse at me than playing in an empty stadium.
“Last season has opened our eyes to how much fans mean to football.”
Davidson admitted he relished the physicality of the Preston clash.
“The game had a wee edge to it,” he admitted.
“It was competitive and I think it’s better that way. Both teams get more out of it.”
Boss Davidson rang the changes after an hour, with loan stars Reece Devine from Man United and Millwall teenager Hayden Muller catching the eye.
“The new boys have settled in really well. We have seen their qualities in training already,” said midfield dynamo Davidson.
“It will take time for them to adjust and get used to the system. But they did really well when they came on.
“Since I’ve been here the dressing room has always made boys feel welcome.
“They will be good signings as the season goes on.
“It’s up to the older ones a wee bit more, like myself and Liam Craig, to make people feel welcome.
“The new players then have to buy into what we’re trying to do.
“Everyone who comes and goes enjoys it here and feels part of it. That can only help them.”