The first season back in the Premiership was very much mission accomplished for Ross County.
Their chief aim of staying in the league was succeeded and although the curtailing of the season secured their status, in truth you did not feel they were close to get dragged in by Hearts.
Survival will likely be their first aim and to build from there. Towards the end of their tenure in the Premiership last time around ambition may have got the better of them, which prompted the end of Jim McIntyre’s time in charge. There does not seem to be anything of the sort this time.
The biggest change this summer came in the dugout, with Steven Ferguson stepping back from management to become CEO. Few can say they understand the club as well as Ferguson – perhaps only chairman Roy MacGregor can share such an accolade.
But in his new role he will continue to help Stuart Kettlewell, who takes sole control of the team and will look to forge his own path with County.
Kettlewell is someone that always speaks passionately about his club and football in general. He has his own ideas of how things should be done on and off the park but it never comes across as arrogant; you can see why the players in his title-winning development squad wanted to play for him. He makes you buy into what he is saying.
Their recruitment over the off-season has been sensible. They needed an experienced left-back to deliver on the park but also help in the development of youngster Josh Reid, whom they have high hopes for.
Regan Charles-Cook is someone who comes with a bit of promise, having spent the last two seasons at Gillingham in League One. At 23, the midfielder has the ideal opportunity to further his career with the Staggies and can add some dynamism to their midfield.
Alex Iacovitti comes north with ambitions of becoming a Scotland international and at 22, is in a similar boat to Charles-Cook where he has some football behind him at a decent level but can use playing in the Scottish top-flight as a platform to fulfil his ambitions.
Connor Randall fills the void at right-back left by Marcus Fraser’s departure and has some experience of Scotland already with Hearts, while Stephen Kelly will look to build on an impressive loan spell at Ayr and a new contract at Rangers with a stint in Dingwall.
Predictions will inevitably have County around the bottom few spaces, along with Hamilton. But as Livingston showed last season, pontificators from the outside can cast doom-and-gloom on a club without knowing the characters that are inside it.
Gone are the days of County making wholesale changes over a summer, or a transfer window. Hosts of players with interesting backgrounds and names arriving from abroad, only to be shipped out months later. There is a familiarity about County now, not least off the park with staff who are steeped in the club’s history.
Marcus Fraser’s loss to St Mirren may well be the toughest one to weather, given his six-year service and captaincy at the club. But in Iain Vigurs and Michael Gardyne they have figureheads with County mindsets, as well as Ross Draper, Callum Morris, Liam Fontaine, Billy Mckay and Ross Laidlaw, who are well-seasoned in the Scottish game.
Keeping hold of Ross Stewart will be imperative and given he is in the last year of his contract, it will be a crucial season for him. The Staggies will hope to keep hold of him; Stewart may see it as a perfect opportunity to get his name out there even more so than it already is.
The bottom six will be competitive, with Dundee United back in the Premiership, St Johnstone under new management and St Mirren making some decent additions.
But there will be a great deal of confidence within Victoria Park that County can topple them and build on their first year back.