Tommy Wright feared Dutch forward Nigel Hasselbaink’s wings were clipped after best pal Gregory Tade left for Romania.But now the St Johnstone manager reckons the striker is ready to fly after starring in the 1-0 Europa League away leg against Rosenborg.
Hasselbaink was gutted when mate Tade left to go to Cluj last month and Wright was worried it may affect his game.
But the Saints gaffer had nothing to fear as Hasselbaink has already made a good start to the season.
Wright said: “After he signed for Cluj, Gregory sent me a text saying, ‘Make sure you look after my wee pal Nigel.’
“I was a bit worried how Nigel would react to his mate leaving for Romania.
“Nigel doesn’t drive so Paddy Cregg has been giving him lifts in and out. He’s taken him under his wing.
“In a way losing his pal Gregory has helped Nigel. The lads all like him but he’s more part of the group now.
“The staff certainly see a difference in him. He is a year older as well. Nigel is only 22 and people sometimes forget that. He is still a baby in football terms.
“He knows there are bits to his game he has to work on. But he is someone I would like to have in the team.
“He was unlucky against Rosenborg on one occasion when he slipped in the penalty box when he was in a good position.
“He has come back in for pre-season and has worked harder than ever.
“I know he is difficult to play against and can hurt teams. You could see Rosenborg were wary of him.”
Saints warmed up for Thursday’s second leg against the Norwegians by drawing 1-1 with Dundee on Sunday.
And Wright said: “We had to make sure the players were grounded and there are enough seasoned
professionals here to make sure nothing is being taken for granted.
“They know there is hard work still to be done.”