AT the turn of the year, St Mirren were in a sorry state. The Paisley club sat in 11th place in the Premiership standings, just two points ahead of a particularly woeful Dundee side and their place in Scotland's top flight looked under threat.

Jack Ross had left the previous summer and was replaced by Alan Stubbs in what would prove to be an ill-fated spell for the former Hibs boss. Oran Kearney then took the reins and while there was mild improvement, the Buddies still looked set for a two-way relegation battle.

A raft of new signings were brought in to tackle the relegation fight, with no fewer than 10 players signing on the dotted line at the Simple Digital Arena in January. Many played their part in St Mirren's eventual escape from relegation - Kyle McAllister and Mihai Popescu deserve an honourable mention, at the very least - but none were as vital as the acqusition of Vaclav Hladky.

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It's fair to say that the Czech goalkeeper was an unknown prospect when he first landed in Scotland but that is certainly no longer the case. The 28-year-old played superbly between his arrival and the end of the season, producing a number of eye-catching performances that culminated in St Mirren's Premiership play-off victory against Dundee United, where Hladky was the hero in the penalty shoot-out, saving three of the four penalties that he faced.

This season, the Czech goalkeeper has picked up where he left off and continues to turn in impressive performances. Hladky's form last season resulted in reported interest from Azerbaijani champions Qarabag over the summer, and the goalie's start to the 2019/20 campaign is showing us exactly why.

Four games into the new Premiership season, Hladky has already made 19 saves. That's the second-highest total of any top-flight goalkeeper, with only Hibernian's Ofir Marciano (27) making more. But while the Israeli has conceded 11 league goals, Hladky has conceded just four.

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The graphic above details how many shots each Premiership goalkeeper has faced this season, how many goals they have conceded and the ratio of shots faced to goals conceded. This tells us how regularly a goalie concedes based on the number of shots they face and the results make for impressive viewing for St Mirren fans.

Hladky has faced 23 shots so far this season - only Marciano and St Johnstone's Zander Clark have faced more - but more notably, the St Mirren keeper has the lowest shots/goals conceded ratio of any top-flight goalkeeper.

Just 17% of shots on St Mirren's goal result in the ball finding the back of the net: a remarkably low percentage. Owain fon Williams (36%), Clark (48%), Ross Laidlaw (35%) and Mark Gillespie (30%) have all faced a similar amount of shots to Hladky, yet none come close to matching the Czech's ability to deny the opposition a goal. Even Allan McGregor - regarded by many as the league's best goalkeeper - concedes one in three efforts on Rangers' goal.

Hladky's rise has been overlooked by many, as often happens with players plying their trade towards the bottom end of the Premiership standings. But it is clear that last season's form was no flash in the pan as, although it's still early days, the Czech goalkeeper continues to go from strength to strength. Hladky is one of the best keepers in the league - and quite possibly the best - and it's about time that we started celebrating that. Qarabag might have been the first club to approach the 28-year-old but if he maintains his form since arriving in Scotland, then they certainly won't be the last.