Steven MacLean has bolstered St Johnstone’s defensive ranks for the Premiership start thanks to his former manager Tommy Wright turning matchmaker.

Wright had a word in the ear of both MacLean and Northern Ireland centre half Sam McClelland to help bring them together.

The upshot is the ex-Chelsea prospect, 21, signing a permanent deal and going straight into the squad for Saturday’s home game against Hearts.

McClelland has been joined by Oludare Olufunwa, a Southampton academy product who was released by Liverpool this summer.

A right-back or central defender, Olufunwa doesn’t boast the first team experience of McClelland who played 30 times on loan for Barrow last season.

However, MacLean believes they both possess the class to be Premiership-ready and aid an ailing back line that alarmingly leaked four goals in a shocking home defeat to Stirling Albion last Saturday. 

MacLean explained: “Tommy Wright has seen Sam play and he got some background stuff for me.

“We speak regularly; always have done since I left St Johnstone as a player.

“I think Sam spoke to Tommy about St Johnstone as well – so we’ve both done our homework!

“I watched a lot of videos of his games at Barrow. He’s got a really good pedigree and is highly thought of.

“Obviously, it’s incredibly difficult to break through at Chelsea. He’s got a lot of attributes we’re looking for.

READ MORE: St Johnstone set to sign ex-Liverpool defender Oludare Olufunwa

“He’s aggressive, good enough on the ball and we think he can improve. Sam wants to defend. Playing up here, you know you’re going to need to deal with balls into your box.

“He’s really, really looking forward to playing here. It was refreshing speaking to him. 

“Sometimes speaking to players and agents, it’s about what they’re getting. ‘Can I get this?’ or ‘can I get that?’

“This conversation was just about football – him wanting to come here to play, get better and continue along a pathway to get where he wants. It was great to hear.

“He’s been in at Coleraine doing stuff and has trained with us since last Friday. He looks in great physical condition.”

McClelland earned a senior cap for Northern Ireland two years ago when making a brief substitute appearance away to Ukraine. 

Olufunwa, 22, is behind his new colleague in the senior game but has the pedigree of an elite club background.

MacLean added: “Dari’s had a few injuries in his career so that’s probably why he’s not kicked on as much. 

“Because he’s not played that makes him a bit more of a gamble but all the potential is there. 

“He’s a big boy, he’s quick and strong. He’s a great kid who is hungry and ready to go.”

MacLean has no problem with either talent being swayed towards Saints with the plan of using Perth as a springboard. 

In fact, it’s a mindset he positively advertises with old heads Andy Considine and Ryan McGowan on hand to guide his quality young recruits.   

He said: “We’re signing for now but also the future and these boys are ones who we can hopefully progress.

“The way I sell it to them is that they can use this as a stepping stone. No disrespect to our great club, but players want to go to the top level and it’s great to have ambition.

“When you’ve been at the academies like Liverpool and Chelsea, you’ve seen big players coming in there with what they’ve got and how much they earn.

“You’ve got to aspire to get back to that. It’s what it’s all about. But, for now, they’re both available for selection for Saturday and it’s nice to have a decision about that to make.”