Jim Goodwin believes defender Jack Baird has earned the right to fight for a place in his starting XI.
The 24-year-old spent last season on loan at St Mirren ’s bitter rivals Greenock Morton, where he impressed manager David Hopkin.
With squad numbers expected to be lighter than usual in Paisley due to the financial impact of Covid-19, Saints gaffer Goodwin feels Baird can become a valuable player thanks to his drive and determination to play.
“I spoke to Jack earlier this week. He has come back in good shape and he is a good pro,” Goodwin said.
“He had a successful loan spell at Morton last season and I got good feedback from David Hopkin. I watched a few of their games and he was one of the standout defenders in the Championship last season.
“Everyone at Morton spoke highly of him. I explained to him that we are in the market for another centre half so there will be competition in that area. We are light in defence so I need to get more players into that area.
“What I liked about Jack last season was he wanted to go out and play games. You get a lot of young lads who are happy to be around the squad and not play.
“While Jack is here he will be a valuable member of the squad.”
Goodwin is expecting to rely on youth more than usual in the forthcoming campaign, with three academy players already promoted to the main squad.
Another youngster he is expecting big things from is Ethan Erhahon, who had a trial with English side Barnsley last season.
Goodwin said: “Ethan had a brief spell at Barnsley and they liked what they saw. With the numbers the way they are right now, Ethan will be another valuable member of the squad.
“We have added three boys from the academy in Lewis Jamieson, Josh Jack and Jay Henderson. So there are opportunities for everyone.
“I am not going to have a 25-man squad so I am going to have to use everyone who is here at this time.
“The likes of Baird, Ethan and the young boys will all come into the mix.”
One potential problem the Buddies face as they gear up for a return to competitive action at the start of August is a lack of opposition for pre-season friendlies.
Every Premiership side is in the same boat, and Goodwin believes playing other top-flight teams will still prove to be more beneficial than nothing at all.
He added: “We had a meeting with the SFA earlier this week where they gave us a brief on what we can and can’t do with friendly games.
“We have three games lined up. It will be strange having friendlies against Premiership teams but I would rather play teams in my league than no games at all.
“We are keeping in touch as managers to make sure we all get the number of games in required before the Premiership