After a disappointing start to the season, Steven MacLean is looking for his Saints side to bounce back.

Despite being knocked out of the Viaplay Cup after only three group-stage games, the St Johnstone manager vows his team will look completely different come the end of the transfer window.

The rookie boss, 40, has six weeks remaining to complete the McDiarmid Park side’s recruitment. A centre-back is on the way, and other areas such as a wide attacker are also high on the priority list.

At the moment it is about filling square pegs in round holes as they sign new players and get those match-fit back from injury in order for the team to reach its full potential come September 1.

“I’m confident that by the end of August, the team and squad will look pretty different to what it does now,” MacLean said. “Between adding players and getting people back from injury, I think we’ll be in a good place. We’ll have a squad ready to go and compete.  

“It will be good to have another fresh face in and we’re looking forward to getting him in the building. He’s young, with a good pedigree, and is a good lad - all the reports about him have been very positive. Hopefully, he’ll come in and do well.”

MacLean has made it no secret about his desire to sign a central defender and is delighted that one is imminent.

More will follow and there will likely be others that Saints miss out on, that’s part and parcel of the football pecking order. But MacLean is confident, despite a shaky first summer in the job, that things will click into place eventually.

He continued: “We have been looking for a centre half, I have been pretty clear about that. It has been tough, everyone has been looking for central defenders so it’s competitive trying to sign them.  

“I still want a midfielder and a wide player after that. Then we’ll maybe look at a few different things before the window closes too.  

“It has been challenging and we have lost out on players to teams who are paying more money.  

“But there’s not much you can do. You lose players to certain clubs, players want the best wages they can get. I’m comfortable with what the budget is and I’m confident we’ll get the players we need.” 

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He added: “We need our injured players back. The positive news is that James Brown has trained so he will come into the equation, although Saturday may be too soon. Dan Phillips will play on Saturday as well, so it will be good to start him again.  

“When we get the injured boys back, we’ll stop putting square pegs in round holes. I don’t want to be playing Drey Wright as a right-back but it was a case of needs must because of where we are with the squad.  

“I wanted to put Ryan McGowan back into midfield to help the young lads in there so that meant shuffling things about.  

“But when we get players back, we’ll have people playing in their natural positions again and have that competition for places you need.  

“You get Dan and James Brown back and suddenly you’re getting people in the right positions.  

“We’ll get stronger when Cammy MacPherson comes back and then Nicky Clark, although he’s going to be a little bit longer before he can start running again.

“Graham Carey is a doubt because he took a knock on Tuesday night.  

“Clark isn’t quite ready to run yet. He did try recently but it’s a bit tender so he’ll wait a week or so.  He’s not going to be ready for the start of the season now and neither will Chris Kane.” 

MacLean watched on in despair as his team crashed out the League Cup, on Tuesday evening following a 2-1 home defeat to Ayr United. This came after an already damaging loss at the hands of Stenhousemuir, another lower-league team.

While the results don’t look promising heading into the Premiership campaign upon reflection MacLean was happy enough with his side’s performances, although the obvious need for improvement will be required promptly.

Looking ahead to the final group game against Stirling Albion, he said: “The difference between Ayr and Alloa was taking chances. We took them at Alloa but against Ayr we should have been two up, we didn’t take the chances and that leaves you open to being punished from set pieces and deflections.  That’s what happened and it shows you have to take chances.

“We have to go out and win, we’re disappointed to be out but players have places against Hearts to play for. You always have a point to prove and we want to excite the supporters.”