If you had followed the St Johnstone transfer speculation to its worst-case scenario conclusion, Zander Clark would have barely been able to recognise the five defenders in front of him on day one of the new season.
But, for all the talk and rumour, it could be the double-winning defence that lines up against Ross County in the Premiership opener.
And if it isn’t, that will only be because Callum Booth is injured.
There are still a few weeks left before the transfer window closes.
For the moment, though, Saints have the continuity from one campaign to the next Callum Davidson will have craved.
And, combined with a fixture list that has kept the Perth side away from a 2021 top-six side until the fifth game in, they have an opportunity to make a flying start.
“This time last year there were a few players bedding into the squad and we had a new manager,” said Clark.
“Once the squad gelled together, results started to come.
“We’ve got through pre-season with pretty much the same group as we finished last season, which is pleasing.
“Now we need to make sure we continue that form.
“There was obviously transfer talk but that’s gone now.
“The boys are all focused on the start to the league and we all want to be involved in these glamour European ties – that’s our reward for last season.
“I’m glad that everybody is still here and we’re starting the season with the squad intact.”
You might think that with two trophies secured for the first time in the club’s history, there would only be scope for regression rather than improvement.
“Last season was a slow start and we definitely want to improve on that,” said Clark.
“But, I said it all last year, nothing really changed in terms of the performances from the start of the season to the end.
“It was just things started turning as we became more solid defensively and started to take chances.
“At the start of the season we were struggling to put teams away, having been so dominant.
“One thing we are definitely looking to do this time is get off to a good start.
“We need to get as many points on board as quickly as possible and see where it takes us.”
The 29-year-old added: “Everybody is saying: ‘How can they better last season?’
“There were results that we weren’t pleased with and this time around we’ll be wanting to finish more games off.
“There are definitely small things in-house that we’ll be looking to improve upon. That’s something we’ve spoken about.
“It is going to be hard to better the overall season, though.
“It is all about maintaining standards.
“Everybody here wants to work hard for each other. If you don’t do that then boys will tell you to start pulling your weight.
“That is one of the main reasons why we have been so successful over the last 10 to 12 years.”
Target on their backs
Saints have never really had a target on their back, even when they were consistently qualifying for Europe, but that might change this season given their Hampden heroics.
— ZanderClark (@Zanderr1) July 24, 2021
“There could be that sort of attitude towards us and we need to be ready for that,” said Clark.
“But making sure we were at the top of our game is something we’d have been doing regardless of the fact we’ve won two trophies last season.
“We treat every game the right way. Last season’s success won’t change that.
“The boys look and sharp and we’ve continued the sort of performances we put in towards the tail end of last season into our pre-season games, which we’re happy about.”