After enduring troubled times with Rangers and Melbourne City, Michael O’Halloran is firmly focused on getting his career back on track in familiar surroundings.
And while the top six is out of reach for St Johnstone, the flying winger plans to maximise his game-time before the end of the campaign.
He’s started the last two games for boss Tommy Wright, who lured him back to McDiarmid Park in January after an injury-plagued spell Down Under.
And O’Halloran, who is set to face Euro-chasing Kilmarnock, admits he’s relishing the novelty.
“I can’t remember the last time I started three games in a row,” he said.
“Obviously I need to play to build match sharpness and it was important to get the 90 minutes in our 2-0 derby win against Dundee.
“I was tired but delighted the gaffer kept me on for the full duration.
“I haven’t played a lot of football in the last year and more.
“So it feels good to be back out on the football pitch.
“It’s what you train all week for and I have really missed it.”
O’Halloran fell out of favour at Ibrox under Portuguese flop Pedro Caixhina.
And his bid for a fresh start in Australia was wrecked by a persistent hamstring problem.
“It was strange missing out for so long,” he said.
“You take things for granted when you are playing every week.
“I appreciate it more now and just how lucky and privileged you are to be a footballer.
“I suppose it does give you fresh hunger.
“It’s not nice missing out for injury or different reasons.”
Despite a form lapse after the break, Wright’s men can still claw their way to 47 points with a win at Rugby Park.
And that tally would have secured top six in any of the last four campaigns.
“It has taken more points than usual to make it this season and that just underlines how competitive the league is,” said O’Halloran, who savoured Euro action with Saints before a £400,000 move to Rangers.
“There was real disappointment here at not making the top six because that was the aim.
“But now the target has to be finishing seventh.
“It was important we went out against Dundee in midweek and put on a good performance.
“I think the fans appreciated it. And it showed we have no intention of downing tools with six games left.
“I wouldn’t say artificial surfaces are my preferred option. Grass is definitely better.
“But Rugby Park is a nice ground and I have had some good games there.
“I have won more than we’ve lost down there and hopefully we can continue that record.
“Kilmarnock have done well carrying on from last season.
“They have a good manager and decent players. They are pushing for Europe so we are well aware of the threat they pose.”
In the wake of a Tayside derby win, Perth manager Wright insists it is shaping-up as a good season for the Perth club.
“We got the perfect response against Dundee, knowing we couldn’t make top six,” he said.
“It was very encouraging and I was pleased with the quality of some of our play.
“In the past, even 44 points has been enough to get you into the top six.
“This year is the highest points total required since we made sixth place with 48 points back in 2013/14.
“There might be a perception that we threw it away. But I wouldn’t agree with that.
“You are judged over a full season and we have improved on last year.
“Our first aim is always to stay away from 11th and 12th and we have opened up a bigger gap from those spots than last season.
“The three losses against Celtic impacted on confidence and we had a tough run of fixtures.
“We lost at Hamilton in among those matches with Celtic and people maybe think we should be winning there.
“But they went up to Aberdeen and won.
“I keep emphasising it but this is a difficult league and it is getting stronger and stronger.
“What is required to make the top six shows the bar has been raised.
“We have raised our bar but unfortunately it hasn’t quite been enough.”
Midfielder Blair Alston returned to training this week and will feature in the squad heading for Rugby Park.
“Kilmarnock have had another good season and are pushing for a European place,” said Wright.
“Steve Clarke must have every chance of being manager of the year.
“They haven’t surprised anyone after what they achieved last season.
“But they have maintained those high standards.”