Willo Flood has spent the vast majority of the last nine years in Scotland’s top flight and the Aberdeen midfielder is convinced the league has never been more competitive than it is now.
The Irishman credits that rather than any lack of bottle in pressure situations for the Dons failing twice in the space of five days to move above Celtic at the top of the Premiership table.
Draws at home to Inverness Caley Thistle and Partick Thistle saw Derek McInnes’ side squander the chance to enter 2016 with a four point advantage over the defending champions.
Flood admits Aberdeen’s standards dropped in those matches but is startled by the negative reaction as they still start the new year on the same points as Celtic, even if they have played two games more.
The Dons were jeered by a section of their own supporters at the end of Wednesday’s goalless draw with Partick Thistle despite losing only three times at Pittodrie in the whole of 2015.
The former Dundee United and Celtic player believes not enough credit was given to the quality of opposition they faced at a time when the sides are more closely matched than ever.
“The bottling thing doesn’t come into it,” claimed Flood. “We just haven’t performed as well as we can in the last two games, but we’re unbeaten and we’re still up there.
“If you had told anyone at the club or the fans that we would be joint top with Celtic on New Year’s Day, although they have games in hand, I’m sure they would have bitten your hand off. We have been on a good run lately, five wins and three draws isn’t a bad points tally, and if we’d turned those draws into wins we would have been in a better position.
“But it’s a tough league and teams will drop points, nobody is going to win every week. The league is very competitive, much more so than in previous years.
“I’d say this season is the most competitive Premiership I’ve played in and you only need to look at the amount of points splitting most of the teams to see that.
“There are definitely no easy games.”
Flood and his team-mates certainly need no reminding of how true that has been against tomorrow’s opponents as St Johnstone accounted for two of those three home defeats last year.
By far the most painful came the last time the sides met in October when the Perth club hammered Aberdeen 5-1 at Pittodrie, arguably the worst result since Derek McInnes took charge.
In fact the Dons only won once in their four meetings last season and Flood added: “It’s always tough against St Johnstone, they are a hard team to play against.
“I don’t think their team or [manager] Tommy Wright gets the credit they deserve for the job they’ve done consistently over a few seasons now.
“They are chasing us for second place and that just goes to show how good their results have been. They beat us 5-1 at Pittodrie earlier in the season, which was a bit of a freak result but you have to credit them for taking their chances.
“They were clinical that day and in Steven MacLean they have one of the best hold-up strikers in the league. So we know how hard it’s going to be down there.”
The immediate task for McInnes is to decide who will partner Flood in the holding role as captain Ryan Jack is sidelined for at least six weeks after tearing a hamstring in midweek.
That will probably see Graeme Shinnie move back into that position and a recall for Andy Considine at left-back but the Aberdeen manager has the option of bringing in a replacement now the transfer window is open.
He is already looking at replacement loans as full-back Ryan McLaughlin has returned to Liverpool and Josh Parker is set to return to Red Star Belgrade after failing to make an impact.
Saints’ David Wotherspoon, meanwhile, is hoping for an instant recall from Wright.
The midfielder missed the midweek defeat by Motherwell due to a one-match ban. But he’s keen to get the green light to line-up against Aberdeen tomorrow.
Wotherspoon said: “Racking up six yellow cards isn’t the way I want to be seen but these things happen and I’ll not be alone.”
The Dons have bounced back from that shock 5-1 drubbing at Pittodrie in October to exert pressure on Premiership leaders Celtic.
Only Saints and Celtic won last year in the Granite City, so Wotherspoon reckons their First Foots will be determined to settle a score.
He said: “Of course it will be in the back of their minds that we did well up there. They’ll obviously want to change that.
“But we want to keep things going and, hopefully, we can get another win.”