It will not have helped whenever the SPFL Premiership table has been used as a scale; seven places and nine points dividing clubs who had become twinned in their pursuit of European competition at the end of the last campaign. Ross County will host the latest Highland derby tonight, but are unlikely to have felt as far from their neighbours for some time.
Recent run outs have comprised an uncomfortable exercise, with County losing in six of their league matches and also missing a step to stumble out of the Scottish League Cup against SPFL League 1 side Stranraer. Those results would not seem to add up given the confident strides made in the top flight last term and that is only exacerbated when you examine the working - Derek Adams' team looking abject in their latest outing, a limp defeat against Kilmarnock last weekend.
Jimmy Calderwood was inclined to take a step back before making his own assessment, though. It offered him a better look at a County team which has won just three times this season but also allowed for a comparison between the current squad and that which he left behind following three months in charge of the Dingwall club in 2011.
It was a brief stay but one not short on success; Calderwood lead County to a Challenge Cup final win - Queen of the South succumbed 2-0 at McDiarmid Park - but more impressively halted a Highland retreat after assuming control of a side sat just four points off the bottom of the first division and without a win in their nine previous matches. Calderwood was able to build up the confidence of the squad quickly but found the materials he needed were already within reach, with a central midfield pairing of Paul Lawson and Iain Vigurs providing enough energy to fuel the club's revival.
That both have since moved on to join Motherwell has affected the Highland side and Calderwood is not surprised that their presence has been missed. "Expectation levels grow but they have lost a few very important players who make a team play, in my eyes," said the 58-year-old, who was last in charge of Dutch club Go Ahead Eagles. "Iain Vigurs is one who has left and, when I was there, Paul Lawson was very, very important; he is a really good football player and when he was fit we normally played well. They are big losses for them and they might also not be getting the breaks."
This is a cliche which managers will often apply when their team is struggling for momentum. The pressure placed on the new players sourced during the summer - including four from the Netherlands - has perhaps constricted County more and it is likely that the demands of a derby with Inverness Caledonian Thistle will only leave them even more short of breath.
"They never played at as high a level, as I understand it," said Calderwood. "The Dutch amateur league is probably the third division in Holland and to come to Scotland, with the pace of the game and the frenzy of some games - like this one [tonight] - it can be difficult for them to adjust.
"But it is always the same. The team that did so well in the first year after coming up usually always struggles, although I think that County have a good group of players. But any time I've seen them on the highlights, they seem to be losing soft goals. That is not like them at all . . . they are losing childish goals, if you know what I mean, players maybe thinking they can just turn up and get a result. It's not like that, it never will be."
There is a concern at the form shown by County, then, even if any such fear lacks an edge this season. Teams struggling in the top flight will shift uncomfortably but aware that there is a cushion below them given that Hearts have still to make up their 15-point deficit for going into administration. "Listen, I think they'll be okay and all they need is to string a few results together, which is what they did so well last year," added Calderwood.
"They need to get back to basics, get back to what they were doing last year. That is what big Terry [Butcher, the Inverness manager] has been doing for years, and then improving the team with the players that he is bringing in. They have got a really good team now, for not much money. Any chairman would be happy with that."
Just ask Kenny Cameron. The Inverness chairman last night announced his club made a profit of £22,000 on the financial year up to May 31 this year as a consequence of a top-four finish in the league last season. It is the first time that Inverness - who increased annual turnover from £3,443,053 to £3,721,192 - have posted a profit since 2007.
"We continue to operate without any long-term debt or overdraft facilities - something we are proud of," said Cameron, whose club announced a deficit of £379,000 this time last year. "It is testament to the shrewdness and undoubted talent-spotting skills of Terry Butcher and Maurice Malpas, ably assisted by head scout Steve Marsella. Having made cuts in the playing budget,the team excelled under their leadership."
They have not done too badly this season either, with Inverness still second in the Premiership table having initially shown impertinence to take hold of top spot. A victory this evening would gild that early form and Butcher is relishing a return to Dingwall. "They are very close games, very tense games, very hard-fought games," said the Inverness manager. "That intensity, you want to bottle it up and keep it in the Highlands because it's special."