Kilmarnock v St Johnstone: Saints still invest in a Wright approach

© SNSDrey Wright in action for St Johnstone.
Drey Wright in action for St Johnstone.

Tommy Wright has watched clubs across the country invest heavily in their squads over the summer.

So the St Johnstone manager is anticipating an even tougher challenge ahead as he enters his sixth season at the helm of the Perth club.

But, as ever, the Northern Irishman is relishing the prospect of mixing it with rivals enjoying access to far bigger budgets.

And Wright’s first challenge tomorrow is a trip to face a Kilmarnock side which snatched a top-six spot under manager Steve Clarke last term.

“There’s always a buzz at the start of the season when you’re coming up to the first league game,” said Wright, who engineered a 2-1 win at Rugby Park 12 months ago.

“But depending on how you do, that can quickly evaporate. We’ve got to make sure we start well and get points on the board.

“I say it every season but we want the first win as quickly as possible and then work in blocks of 10 points.

“The league is tougher again this year and there has been a lot of investment in squads.

“I think the standard of the league will improve again and make it another difficult one for every team.”

For the first time in Wright’s tenure, Saints missed out on a top-half finish last time round, having to settle for eighth place.

And he knows how success raises the bar and expectations among supporters.

“We know it’s a difficult game and Kilmarnock had a good season last year. Steve will know that the most difficult thing will be repeating that,” he noted.

“When you look back at the achievements we’ve had, to have so many top six finishes in a row, it was an unbelievable achievement for the club.

“I see people already saying we are going to get top six and good cup runs but you can never predict it.

“The pundits every year have Hamilton marked down for relegation and that hasn’t happened. I don’t pay much attention to it.

“I know my team and I think I have enough experience in this league to know what it takes to do well.

“We know what is required in a very tough league.

“We’re working hard to improve on last season and know the areas where we’re going to try and do that.”

Wright has been pleased with summer arrivals Tony Watt, Drey Wright and Matty Kennedy, who all made an impact in the Betfred Cup group stage.

“I did want to add quality at the top end of the pitch and I’ve done that,” he said.

“Drey has settled in really well and Matty scored a wonderful goal at Forfar.

“Tony is doing well and still needs to work on his fitness. But he is working really hard and is a great lad to work with.

“Those three at that end of the pitch have excited the fans and have certainly excited me in what I’ve seen in training and games.

“But it is a step up for everyone when you start the league campaign.”

Saints head for Ayrshire without suspended right-back Richard Foster and injured trio Joe Shaughnessy (leg cut), Chris Kane (Achilles) and Callum Hendry (ankle).

But he expects skipper Shaughnessy to resume training next week, while full-back Brian Easton has joined in squad training this week after suffering a setback in the wake of last term’s groin surgery.