WHEN Kyle McAllister left St Mirren to sign for Derby County in January 2017, the Buddies were at the foot of the Championship table, eight points adrift from safety.

Fortunately for the Buddies, the transformation wrought by manager Jack Ross, who had been appointed the previous October, not only saw them survive but finish top of the pile the following season, an achievement which saw him head-hunted by Sunderland.

McAllister returned to Paisley during the most recent January window, with Saints propping up the Premiership but hoping to retain their top-tier status with a drastic change in personnel arranged by manager Oran Kearney, who had replaced Alan Stubbs in September.

The resemblance is more than cosmetic, however, with McAllister insisting that Kearney has unified the entire club just as Ross had done, restoring the feel-good factor in the dressing room and providing the momentum which may yet see them avoid the play-offs.

“You could say there are similarities between this team and the one Jack had,” said the 20-year-old. “This is a changed team, with a lot of young players, and it’s about

believing in the players you have.

“That was a big part of Jack Ross’s way of going about it and it’s the same with the gaffer now – he thinks the same way. Bringing in new players has changed everything. The way he wants to play has changed. He’s been very helpful, just like Jack was for me when he came in.

“We have got a stronger team than what we had before January.

I know there are a lot of loan players but the permanent signings have played a massive part and shown that they can play in the Premiership, compared to the players that were here before.”

Anything other than a home win over third-bottom Hamilton tonight will condemn Saints to the play-offs but the Scotland Under-21 winger remains optimistic. He also needs to rebuild a career which has been derailed by a complicated groin problem which prevented him from playing for Derby in the two years since his £225,000 move.

He said: “St Mirren played a massive part in me becoming a professional player so I want to help them to stay up. Knowing I’m just back from injury, I feel as though I have to prove myself to Derby because they’ve rarely seen me play.

“I need to prove to myself that I’m still good enough after the two years out. It would be massive for me to help this team avoid relegation.”