Ayr United captain Ross Docherty insists he’s not been surprised by how well his former team-mates have fared at Dundee and Dundee United.
Declan McDaid joined the Dark Blues from the Honest Men last summer, with Lawrence Shankland and Liam Smith swapping Somerset Park for Tannadice.
Shankland has notched 29 goals in 35 games for the Terrors and Scotland, while Smith and McDaid have been standouts for their clubs.
Goal machine Shankland has particularly impressed Docherty.
“It’s not been a surprise to me at all how well he’s done,” the 27-year-old midfielder said.
“I had every confidence in him going up there at the start of the season because he’d done it for Ayr.
“We were a decent team last season but he’s gone to Dundee United and they’re dominating the league.
“If he gets a chance, he’s going to score and he’s maybe been getting a bit more service up there.
“He’d dried up before the league stopped but they’d been struggling as a team.
“His form has seen him get caps and a goal for Scotland which is amazing.
“He knows if he performs he’s going to get an opportunity.
“There’s been a shortage of strikers, obviously, but you can’t take it away from Lawrence.
“Boys can look at him and take confidence and encouragement, even though they might not get a Scotland cap playing in the Championship.
“It’s unexpected and a bit out there but, if you’re going to perform well over a period of time, there’s chances out there to better yourself.”
And Doc puts a large portion of Shankland’s improvement down to the 24-year-old getting himself into shape mentally as well as physically after joining Ayr.
The former Livingston and Airdrie man added: “With any striker when they’re going through a period of good form then it’s got to be about having confidence.
“That comes from doing well and what started that off was when he came in at Ayr.
“He was maybe a wee bit unfit having not done much over the summer before signing for us and he was unfit the season before – he’d be the first to admit that.
“His head wasn’t right so it was a number of things but he come in, got as fit as he could and he’s just in a better space.
“He was like a different guy to the one I played against before and, once you get that, the confidence and the ability he has makes him unstoppable in the league at times.
“I’m fairly close to him and he’s a bubbly character but it’s a quiet confidence.
“He wouldn’t be bragging to anyone about anything or in anyone’s face.
“He knows he’s good enough and that’s probably what a lot of good players miss in this league.
“He’s one where, if he misses a chance, he knows he’s going to go and score the next one.”
Although a different character, Docherty believes Smith is almost as important to the Tangerines as Shankland.
“I’m not surprised he’s been one of United’s most consistent players because he was the same last season at Ayr.
“He came in and flew under the radar but, with two or three months to go in the season, people were starting to say ‘he’s been amazing for us’.
“He did it the whole season but he sometimes goes unnoticed but that’s probably because he is such a quiet boy.
“He’s a steady Eddy and he and Lawrence link up well.
“They did it at Ayr but when you look at us compared to what Dundee United have in terms of budget this season I’m not surprised they’ve gone and done it again.”
Docherty does admit, though, that McDaid’s transformation into a left wing-back under James McPake at Dens Park was unexpected.
“I’ve seen recently they’ve been playing a 3-5-2 so he’s almost been playing wing-back,” he added.
“I spoke to him and, obviously, as a winger you never really want to be playing there so he was kind of laughing about it!
“At the end of the day, though, it shows that he has that side of his game and will benefit him in the long run.
“If people maybe two years ago, and I was probably one of them, had thought that Declan McDaid would be playing wing-back they’d have laughed.
“He wasn’t as good defensively but now you can see he’s really improved there.
“Whenever we’ve played them or I’ve seen them on the telly he’s been one of their best players this season.
“It’s brilliant for him, the same as Lawrence and Liam, that boys from Ayr can go to these other clubs and really perform.”