Ross County defender Coll Donaldson has hailed the influence of manager John Hughes in steering the Staggies clear of relegation.
Hughes succeeded in his remit of keeping County in the top flight after replacing Stuart Kettlewell in December when the Dingwall side were four points adrift at the foot of the table.
A strong end of season run, which saw the Staggies take 10 points from the five post-split fixtures, was enough for County to finish 10th and avoid the relegation play-off.
Hughes is now out of contract, with discussions still ongoing with chairman Roy MacGregor over him staying on for next season.
Donaldson, who worked under Hughes when he was a young player at Livingston, feels the former Caley Thistle manager’s impact has been there for all to see during his time at Victoria Park.
Donaldson said: “I was quite young when he was at Livingston but I can only speak about it now. He has come here and done really well.
“When he came in we were four points adrift but there is always a bounce when you get a new manager.
“It’s probably something in the back of your mind, you all re-focus again which sounds ridiculous but subconsciously it happens.
“He brought in players like Leo Hjelde and big Jordan White which helped us.
“He’s got a big personality but people sometimes see a different side to what we see.
“He has got that serious side to him as well. He is demanding in training, and his demands around the place are very high.
“He has both sides to that personality.”
Donaldson also spoke highly of the contribution of assistant Richie Brittain and coach Don Cowie, who remained as part of Hughes’ backroom team following Kettlewell’s departure.
The 26-year-old added: “For as long as I have been in football, the most important people after a defeat are people such as the first team coach, Don Cowie, and assistant Richie Brittain.
“It’s probably their job after a defeat to get around the boys and get us going back again.”
Although Donaldson is under contract beyond the summer, the future of a number of his team-mates has still to be resolved.
One player definitely departing is Norwegian defender Leo Hjelde, who spent the latter half of the campaign on loan from Celtic.
The 17-year-old’s emergence has caught the eye, with English Premier League sides Leeds United and Southampton having been linked with him.
Having played alongside Hjelde on a number of occasions, Donaldson can see why people are taking note.
Donaldson added: “Leo has been great, he’s only 17 but it’s easy to forget that because of the way he plays.
“He’s in men’s football, a relegation battle is the hardest thing you can come into and he’s dealt with it well.
“He’s got a bright future in the game if he continues to play the way he has been.
“I remember at that age thinking it was quite easy but you get challenges along the way and you have to deal with them.
“Everyone is different, Leo will know what’s best for him and he will decide whether he wants to try down south. He’s at a big club in Celtic just now.”