That he’s been Dundee United’s Player of the Season so far tells its own story but goalkeeper Benji Siegrist believes he’s had to prove himself all over again under Tangerines boss Micky Mellon.
When he first arrived at the club in 2018, Siegrist wasn’t automatically No 1 under then-manager Csaba Laszlo and only really made the jersey his own when Robbie Neilson came in.
The Swiss stopper was superb as United raced to the Championship title last term and has kept four clean sheets already this campaign to help lead a misfiring Terrors to the top six.
Speaking on the Dode Fox Podcast, the 28-year-old admitted he had to up his game going into the Premiership under a new gaffer.
“I think I had to prove myself anyway because we were stepping up a league and I wanted to build on what I felt was a good season for me personally,” he said.
“As a player, when a new manager comes in, everybody starts from scratch.
“Whether you like it or not, that’s the case. He had to get to know us and we had to get to know him.
“It was definitely a case of trying to put my best foot forward and trying to make a good first impression.
“The gaffer is very much ‘play what you see’ whether that’s playing from the back or taking a quick goal kick just do it.
“He gives us keepers the freedom to do it if we think it’s on and ask questions later.
“Sometimes it’s about managing the game.”
And the former Aston Villa keeper believes the team as a whole have adapted well to the top flight following promotion, registering three clean sheets in a current four-game unbeaten run.
Siegrist continued: “I was really looking forward to it and we had that feeling of accomplishment finally getting out of the lower leagues.
“We wanted to play the biggest teams in the country so it’s definitely a step up.
“All the little mistakes get punished on a bigger scale so you just have to be switched on all the time.
“We’ve lost goals where it’s just been that one instance where we’ve switched off a little bit but I think we’ve learned from it with all the consecutive clean sheets.
“The boys have really improved.
“You’re coming up against better opposition which means they’re going to have more of the ball, pass it around you a bit and get closer to your goal.
“Last year, other teams weren’t getting to our box and had to shoot from 30 or 40 yards.
“That’s a big difference I’ve experienced so far.”
Benji branded the best in the league
Particularly in the last few games, Siegrist has drew widespread praise for his performances, with Mellon branding him ‘the best in the league’.
The big goalie admits he was flattered but would like some easier days out in the weeks ahead as the Swiss has saved a blunt Terrors side countless times in recent weeks.
“It’s nice to hear but I just try to do my job every weekend,” he added.
“The goalkeeper sometimes gets the headlines if you have a clean sheet and a couple of saves like the striker gets the headline if he scores a tap-in from two yards out.
“But it’s a team game.
“It drives me on to do even more, get better and improve.
“I’d definitely like to have some quieter nights!
“I think there’s an adjustment period, personally, because I’ve never experienced the Scottish Premiership and didn’t know what I was getting into.
“We had a taste with the play-offs and cup games against Hibs. They showed pretty clearly it’s a more physical league but what the goalkeeper gets measured with is clean sheets.
I think I had to prove myself anyway because we were stepping up a league and I wanted to build on what I felt was a good season for me personally.
“I can measure myself against other established or international goalkeepers in the league and compete against good strikers, top teams and better players.
“The aim is trying to push my boundaries, develop my game and have more consistency.
“I’m pretty sure my team-mates think that way, too.
“It’s not always pretty but you can have pretty football and zero points or you can have a scrappy game and take a win or a point.
“I know what I would prefer.
“We can’t forget this is our first year at this level and, so far, we’re doing good.”
Tangerines look to extended unbeaten run against Accies
Ahead of Saturday’s visit of bottom side Hamilton to Tannadice, Siegrist insists they are aiming to continue their positive run of form.
He commented: “The trend is going upwards, it’s positive and I think coming into pre-season we were one of the teams that started early compared to others.
“We maybe had three or four weeks more to get up fitness levels and start the season so well.
“That only gets you so far, though, and other teams catch you up.
“Kilmarnock and Rangers were reality checks for us like ‘this is life in the Premiership’.
“It’s always going to be up and down the first season back up because those 2-1 wins against Arbroath aren’t going to happen in the Premiership because the opposition is better.
“You’re not going to score in the 95th minute until you adjust to this level of football.
“I think we’ve done a really nice job of adjusting ourselves and dusting ourselves down, keep going and the manager sets the route.
“We want to improve in pursuit of the next level as a football club and as players.”