Ross County forward Alex Schalk says his contentment off the park is a large factor behind his success on the field since he joined the Staggies nearly a year ago.
Schalk signed for the Highlanders on a free transfer last October after leaving Dutch side Go Ahead Eagles, and initially had to be patient in waiting for his chance under County manager Jim McIntyre.
The 24-year-old seized the chance that eventually came his way however, netting nine goals in the latter half of last season, most notably the winner in the League Cup final against Hibernian in March.
Schalk feels a close bond exists between the Staggies’ squad outwith training and matches and the former Netherlands under-21 international reckons it has helped his performances for the Dingwall club.
Schalk said: “The dressing room environment is a little bit different in Scotland to Holland. Obviously the football jokes are the same everywhere – there are no boundaries.
“But I think the bond between the players is much stronger than anywhere I’ve experienced in Holland.
“That’s really important, especially for a club like Ross County. For us, everyone thinking the same way – a really strong group mentality, with everyone pulling in the same direction.
“It’s important when we live in quite a small place like Inverness. We see each other every day, go for lunch, the movies, the gym – we do a lot of things together away from the football.
“That’s why our bond is so good and that’s one of the things I think we need to be successful and achieve our goals at a smaller club.”
Schalk has been blown away by some of the scenery in the Highlands, and is eager to make the most of his stint in the north of Scotland, adding: “I had family over last Sunday, the weather was beautiful and Loch Ness was the first thing they wanted to see.
“When I get the chance to come out here in my free time, I realise I am playing football in one of the most beautiful parts of the world.
“I’ve been here a couple of times and went to Dores beach last week. I’m planning going to the Falls of Foyers as well.
“I love sight-seeing and there are a few other parts of the Highlands I want to go to as well.
“Holland is flat and really highly populated, with big cities, but up here we have the peace and calm to escape to. It’s breathtaking.”