Hearts midfielder Don Cowie knows that the quality of player within a squad is the overriding factor in dictating the success of any season.
But the fact that his vocal cords have not been so strained is another reason that the 34-year-old feels confident ahead of the upcoming Ladbrokes Premiership campaign.
A lack of natural leaders during the second half of last season was pinpointed as an issue in a bitterly disappointing fifth-place finish.
Cowie had taken it upon himself to try to galvanise a multi-national squad, but believes his team-mates grew tired of his voice.
The summer arrivals of newly-appointed captain Christophe Berra and Northern Ireland internationalists Kyle Lafferty and Michael Smith, however, have ensured that there are now plenty of other players willing to speak up.
“I feel a lot more comfortable within myself (when) you look around and see the players here now,” said Cowie, ahead of tonight’s Betfred Cup tie at Peterhead.
“It got to the stage last year that you’re speaking and they’re probably just thinking, ‘he’s shouting again’ and it might get boring.
“Now I don’t feel it’s always me that needs to speak up because there are so many characters about that anyone can step in at any time and say what they need to say. If it can help us then great.
“It’s a new start for us and getting these players, not only are they characters but they’re quality. It’s international players that have come in and they add to the team. It’s exciting to be part of.”
Only three of January’s nine recruits – Aaron Hughes, Esmael Goncalves and Malaury Martin – remain at the club and Cowie says the dressing room feels far stronger having a British spine to the team.
Supporters have not been able to read much into back-to-back Group B victories over Elgin City and East Fife, but Cowie is hopeful a more united dressing room will be better prepared for the rigours of the upcoming Premiership campaign.
He added: “There was nothing untoward regarding any of the guys that were here last season. They were all good people.
“It’s only natural you maybe stick together as foreign boys. You’re more fluent in your language so you can talk to each other. I don’t see that now. I see a real togetherness, the foreign boys bonding with the British boys. There aren’t as many so it’s only natural that you come together that way. Adding experience of Christophe and Kyle and Michael Smith, people like that, that can only add to it.
“You could see during pre-season in Ireland the bond that’s going on. The dressing room feels stronger and a lot more together. It’s got a really good feel to it. But it’s about us getting results and winning games.”
Head coach Ian Cathro has made his intentions clear in the Betfred Cup after naming arguably his strongest side in the matches against Elgin and East Fife.
Cowie is delighted to be reunited with that winning feeling following a run of just four victories from 17 league matches during the second half of last term.
He added: “We need to get that winning mentality because we didn’t do it enough last year. Winning is a habit, just like losing is a habit. The more games we can win the better because there is no better feeling. When you’re losing games, that period between games is tough.
“We need a good start and we want to progress in the cup because we need to be challenging for cup honours.
“We didn’t want to take the competition lightly and see it as a pre-season like a lot of people think. As soon as we came back, we said that we needed to get off to a good start.”
Cathro insists that there has been no change regarding Jamie Walker amid reports that Rangers are lining up an increased offer for the playmaker.
He said: “There is no change in that situation, that does not even warrant it being a situation.”
One player that could be heading out of the club on loan, however, is Liam Smith. St Mirren are said to be interested in recruiting the 21-year-old full-back, who is recovering from an ankle injury.
Cathro added: “It’s a possibility that Liam will go out on loan. Liam is getting to the end of his rehab and once he’s back fully fit we’ll reassess the situation.”