The season starts now for Dundee United striker Lawrence Shankland.
Shankland banged in 28 goals for the Tangerines in the Championship to do more than anyone else to get them back into the Premiership.
However, he suffered a false dawn on day one of the top-flight campaign when the out-of-sorts frontman struggled to make an impact in the 1-1 draw with St Johnstone at Tannadice.
The reason for that sluggish performance would soon become clear – he was carrying a chronic ankle injury.
From then on it became a will-he-won’t-he guessing game, with Shankland seemingly close to a comeback only to be absent from Micky Mellon’s line-up on match day.
Even his inclusion in national coach Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad for the Nations League qualifiers against Israel and the Czech Republic raised hopes of an imminent United return only for Shankland to withdraw from international duty.
Finally, he appeared as a substitute for the Tangerines in their 4-0 defeat to Rangers at Ibrox last weekend, playing for half-an-hour and coming close to scoring a late goal.
Shankland himself views this afternoon’s home match against St Mirren as his own, personal curtain-raiser. It will be the first time he will have been injury-free and ready to produce last season’s form.
The United striker, asked if it will feel like he is starting all over again today, said: “A wee bit, aye.
“While I was injured I was still at the games supporting the boys and that, also going to the training ground all the time.
“But I would like to see this as an opportunity to kick-start my season from now.
“It has been very frustrating.
“After lockdown you were looking to get a good pre-season under your belt but what I had to do is another pre-season for a further few weeks.
“It hasn’t been ideal but injuries are part and parcel of the game, unfortunately.
“It has happened but I’m back now and happy with where I am, looking forward to getting properly fit.
“I hope I can provide a cutting edge and I know the goals will come,” he added.
“I know I am a good enough player and I am playing in a good enough team, so it will happen.
“You can’t get impatient, you just have to wait for it. I will find my form eventually.
“We would all agree that as a team we have to create more in the forward areas.
“There is a pressure on me to score goals because that’s my job and if the boys are creating chances then it’s up to me to finish them.
“So of course there is pressure attached to that but I don’t mind that. It’s a pressure I enjoy because I am a striker and that’s what I want to take on.
“If I can provide that edge and get goals, then that would be great.”
Shankland’s injury was somewhat shrouded in mystery, with the problem difficult to categorise and label.
He explained: “To be honest with you, it was just inflammation in my ankle.
“I couldn’t seem to shift it.
“It was nothing in particular that caused it. I would be training and just felt it.
“It was as if it just happened really quickly then took its time to settle down.
“We tried an injection and stuff but time was the healer and it just took its time to get better.
“Yeah, I was just jogging and it would get swollen. It was like a wee niggle then after training sessions you couldn’t really move it.
“I maybe did more damage by training on but at the time I didn’t think it was anything bad.
“It was a bit of a freak one but that happens.
“Thankfully, it’s really good at the moment and hopefully it stays that way.”
Shankland had to sit out six games for his club, while there was also the missed opportunity to add to his cap total.
“It wasn’t good,” said Shankland.
“For me, I am just glad to be going back out on to the pitch and I’m looking forward to getting games under my belt.
“If I can find good form in those games for United then I will be in with a shout and we will see what happens for the next Scotland match against Israel next month.”
In an interview conducted in the wake of the Ibrox loss, Shankland was honest about the poor standard of performance from United that day.
He is confident, however, they can up their game when the Paisley men visit.
He said: “Obviously playing at home to St Mirren is a completely different game to playing against Rangers away.
“It’s a different challenge.
“We haven’t faced St Mirren yet so I’m looking forward to it.
“We’ve done a wee bit of research on them.
“It will be about how we want to play the game and we do see it as a winnable match even though St Mirren are a good team.
“They are an established Premiership side.
“We didn’t have our ‘A’ game at Ibrox and we will have to find that
“We have had a couple blips the last two game but we have the players to go and produce a good performance.”
Shankland will start up front and he could be supported by wide man Paul McMullan, who looks due a place in the line-up.
Ryan Edwards will keep his spot in central defence, with Mark Connolly still out injured.