Tommy Wright walked the length of the Sahara desert during his break from football, but the new Kilmarnock manager will not stray far from his tried and trusted formula for success in the Scottish Premiership.
The former St Johnstone boss has been brought in to lead Killie away from danger near the foot of the table and attempt to repeat his Perth heroics in Ayrshire.
Wright guided Saints to their first major trophy when winning the Scottish Cup in his first season in charge and secured a string of top-six finishes and European campaigns, never finishing below eighth.
The 57-year-old stepped down in May last year and has come back refreshed and determined to enjoy the same kind of success at Rugby Park following his break.
“It didn’t go the way I wanted obviously because of Covid,” he said. “I had planned a few trips to clubs abroad and a couple of Premier League clubs to help with my development as a coach.
“I was able to do some CPD (continuing professional development) work but in the main I have been gardening, golfing, when we were allowed to golf, and doing a lot of walking. Apparently I have walked the length of the Sahara desert in the time I was off. It’s done me good, I lost a lot of weight and got fit.
“I have done a lot of reading, watched box sets and relaxed as best I could in difficult circumstances. But the main thing is I feel refreshed and ready to go.
“I genuinely haven’t missed it because I knew I had made the right decision. The early days were great.
“I did miss the interaction with the players, that would be the biggest thing. I always felt man-management was something that helped me get success.
“Contrary to what one or two players at St Johnstone thought, that I had one or two sons up there, I never got too close to them. I got as close as I needed to be to get the best out of them.”
Wright was in the frame for the Northern Ireland and Motherwell jobs before being swiftly appointed by Killie following the departure of Alex Dyer.
“There’s been a lot of perception about how we played, how I managed, how I didn’t bring young players through,” he said.
“When you look at the St Johnstone squad at the minute, there’s probably eight or nine that I brought through.
“What Kilmarnock will get is a team that is organised, that wants to play good football, play high-tempo football, and that’s what wins football matches. And I want to get a winning mentality into the squad.
“I know the league, I have worked in the league for nine years, and going forward I know what types of players do well in the league.
“And the added benefit is I have got James (Fowler) to help me with recruitment, because recruitment at St Johnstone was solely down to me, there was no infrastructure for me to fall back on and have that support. So that’s going to be a good thing for me to relieve the pressure.”
Wright has an early chance to make his mark when Killie host Graham Alexander’s Motherwell on Wednesday.
“The two sessions we have had, the quality has been outstanding,” said Wright, who confirmed he had scope to bring in a free agent if they could find someone who had just been released.
“Having looked at a lot of the games, they have made individual errors at crucial times, lost late goals, lost leads, but the overall quality of the squad is excellent. The work-rate, quality and attitude has been really good.”
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