The latest St Johnstone signing, Connor Smith, has described Andy Kirk as the biggest influence on his career so far.
And as soon as Kirk and Craig Levein took up work at McDiarmid Park, the former Hearts playmaker knew that he wanted to follow them to Perth.
“I had a few other clubs interested but I’d worked under the gaffer and Andy so it was no-brainer for me to come here,” said Smith, who made his debut as a second half substitute in Saints’ 1-1 draw with Motherwell on Saturday.
“When they were at Hearts they were honest with me.
“I knew that if I wasn’t doing well in games or training I wouldn’t play.
“I’ve always respected that.
“The gaffer is very good with man management and knows how to talk to players.
“Andy was class every day in training. More than anyone else, he was probably the one who has made me the player I am today.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked under some great managers but Kirky was right up there with the best.
“Even after he left Hearts he was always texting me.
“Mak Kirk (Andy’s son) is at Hearts.
“I was talking to him and he was going back, talking to his dad.
“I knew that if things weren’t working out, he’d give me a phone call.
“After he got a job here I’d been saying to my dad that I’d love to come to St Johnstone.
“I’m delighted it’s happened.”
Loan after loan
Smith craved regular game-time at Tynecastle but he made the best of six loans.
“Every year was tough when I thought I was going to get a chance and then I went out on loan again,” he reflected.
“But, even though it wasn’t easy to hear that, the loans have been good for me.
“You need to be playing football.
Congratulations to Connor Smith who has picked up the Club's Young Player of the Year Award for this season. pic.twitter.com/NdFsT8cbEH
— Queen's Park FC (@queensparkfc) April 30, 2022
“After I’d helped get Queen’s Park promoted, Hearts were saying ‘come back and you’ll play’.
“I did get involved, including games in Europe, which I was delighted about.
“But after that I went to Hamilton.
“I thought I did well there even though the club got relegated so it was tough to be told I was going on loan again (to Scunthorpe).
“I’d been involved in all the games in pre-season. That was when I knew that my time was up with Hearts.”
Smith knows that the weekend display wasn’t an accurate reflection of his new team’s ability.
And he’s confident they’ll show that in Dingwall on Saturday.
“I kind of knew I was coming here by Wednesday so I watched the Aberdeen game with my dad,” he said.
“The boys were good that night and fought back for a point.
“You could see we were a bit fatigued at the end of the Motherwell match – that’s going to happen when it’s Wednesday-Saturday.
“Next week will be different – we’ll be fresh and right at it against Ross County.”
Smith’s versatility is a big asset but which position would he choose as his favourite?
“That’s such a hard question for me,” he admitted. “Because I have played left, right, 10, centre-mid and wing-back as well.
“I probably prefer driving from midfield and creating chances, scoring goals as a number eight and working hard going the other way.
“That’s where I grew up playing through the age-groups and with Scotland.”