How best to use your budget is a head-scratcher for any manager.
For starters, there’s the need to ensure cover for every position. Then there’s the interlinked balancing act of getting ageing bodies out and younger ones in.
Stevie May’s return to St Johnstone in the summer was emotional for everyone at the club.
As one of the heroes – and certainly the breakout star – of Saints’ Scottish Cup-winning team of 2014, there was a burning desire from fans and staff to see May back at his boyhood club.
In the end, after a couple of false starts, the deal was done – and there are no regrets.
But Perth gaffer Tommy Wright has pinpointed his decision to pursue a deal for May as a potential trigger for Saints’ early season troubles.
Why? It’s that budgetary balancing act.
Joe Shaughnessy’s departure had left Saints with a hole in the centre of defence, and filling it had been a priority.
Securing May meant compromising on that and, boy, did the Perth side pay a price when Liam Gordon, who was given a shot at replacing Shaughnessy from within the club, picked up an injury in training.
Saints went winless until October 26 against Hamilton Accies, but have subsequently picked up another three victories to move clear of the basement.
They did it whilst keeping four clean sheets in a row through December.
The task now is to maintain their new-found defensive strength, come what May.
Ali McCann’s emergence was a ray of light for Saints in the dark early months of the season.
He came into the side as a 19-year-old unknown, with half-a-season on loan at Stranraer behind him.
Now he’s a first-pick Premiership midfielder, with the kind of ball-retention skills prized by teams far bigger than St Johnstone.
Securing the youngster to a long-term deal in early December was a masterstroke.
In theory, that means the Perth side will not lose him on the cheap when the curious glances from other clubs inevitably solidify into firm interest.
In October, Saints were leaking goals at the bottom of the Premiership.
Now, things look much healthier.
The return from injury of centre-half, Liam Gordon, and the utilisation of Callum Booth at left-back have given the Perth side a solid look.
In stemming the tide, Tommy Wright has sacrificed attacking intent, but the goals of Callum Hendry from the bench have been huge, and being hard to beat is a huge asset in the Premiership.
It was a characteristic the Saints gaffer’s best teams always possessed.
If recent improvements can be maintained – ideally with the addition of a centre half to his squad – Wright’s current crop will set their sights on climbing as far as possible up the table.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe