ST MIRREN assistant manager

Brian Rice says the difference in atmosphere around the club is “night and day” since Oran Kearney succeeded Alan Stubbs as boss.

Veteran coach Rice was brought to the club by Stubbs in the summer and kept on by Kearney after the former Hibernian manager was sacked in early September amid growing ­dressing-room unrest.

Saints haven’t won a game since Kearney took over but Rice insists there is still a positivity around the place that wasn’t always there under the old regime.

He said: “Oran has brought a ­freshness here and the players have taken to him. Some of them are now getting a chance that they weren’t getting under Alan.

“There is a different atmosphere around the place now. Oran has brought that with the way he conducts himself with everyone behind the scenes.

“The difference is night and day. The training ground is alive again and I can’t wait to go in every morning.

“You can see players are staying longer too. They’ve been through a lot but they are buying in to it. You will see the fruits of that.”

Kearney, meanwhile, hopes a “Moneyball” approach to recruitment will pay off in January when he plans on overhauling his squad to improve Saints’ chances of avoiding relegation straight back to the Championship.

With most of Stubbs’ summer ­signings now training separately from the first-team squad, Kearney wants to bring in his own players in the window.

And he hopes using statistics rather than agents’ recommendations will eliminate a lot of guesswork.

He said: “Recruitment is massive and we have huge inroads to make there. We’ve made big changes to how we as a club sign players and it’s vitally important to have that structure.

“We’ve moved to a new model in terms of how we recruit. I’ve gone from having 15 agents in my phone to more than 100 since I started here but I don’t want to rely on agents recommending players. We are looking at a Moneyball model, using lots of statistics to assess players.

“If players pass that test, then myself, Brian and Gus [MacPherson, technical director] will watch them a number of times. That gives us a paper trail and a level of accountability so we can justify why players were signed. We will scour the length and breadth of Scotland but will look in other countries too.”

The former Coleraine manager revealed he would also consider going back to Northern Ireland for players – but not until the summer.

Kearney, speaking at a fans

Q&A, felt that the jump from

part-time to full-time football would be too difficult midway through a campaign.

He explained: “There are a few diamonds over there but it would be unfair to bring someone in from a part-time environment in January and expect them to hit the ground running. So the time to do it would be in the summer.”