THE move from Edinburgh to Dingwall has been further than expected for Ivan Sproule.
Having agreed an 18-month contract with Ross County, the former Hibernian forward flew out to join the squad at a winter training in Marbella and has returned to resume the league campaign in Paisley.
The meeting with St Mirren this afternoon also brings a return to reality, Sproule having joined a club that have not been short of plaudits following an encouraging start to the campaign but which will still feel a little light on points. Dundee are rooted to the bottom of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League but remain just nine points adrift.
The safety of County's league placing is subjective but they have seldom seemed overawed this season. The club's last competitive match brought a win over Hibernian and since then the squad has been augmented by the arrival of Sproule, as well as Greek Evangelos Ikonomou and Canadian Andre Hainault.
All three settled into life at the Dingwall side by basking in the Mediterranean sun but Sproule is now eager to get back to the less luxurious environment of the Premier League. "It's been a bit hectic. My first destination with the club was Marbella, so that wasn't a bad way to start," said the forward. "We've trained really hard and it was good for me to get that trip away with the lads. I got to speak to them and bond with the team."
St Mirren are also raring to go, although that is partly down to a fear of their season stalling again. The Paisley side had hoped to avoid the lower reaches of the table but, despite a four-match unbeaten run, they remain a paltry four points ahead of County.
That should be enough to eschew a scrap with Dundee, even if there are a few at the club willing to admit to feeling quite so comfortable just yet. "We don't think that Dundee are cast adrift," said Gary Teale, the St Mirren winger. "People said that earlier on in the season and then we went on a run where we didn't win for six games. They caught up with us.
"The results we had in October and November were terrible, there is no getting away from that. But we are a positive-thinking club and with the results we have kicked on. The league is so tight that two results will put us up and to where we think we should be in the league."