ST MIRREN’S pre-season programme would have looked a lot different were it not for Jon Obika.

Had the striker not bustled his way through the Hearts defence to score – and had goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky not kept a clean sheet at the other end – in what proved to be the final league of the season back in March then it would be the Paisley side and not their Tynecastle rivals who would be  currently battling it out with the SPFL and Scottish FA in a bid to salvage their Premiership status.

Who knows just what path St Mirren would have taken over these last four months had they been the ones to be sitting bottom of the table when football stopped. Obika is just glad he never had to find out.

The former Tottenham Hotspur striker concedes he find it “crazy” that the relegation issue is still unresolved this close to the start of a new campaign but expresses his relief that, thanks to his intervention, he and his team-mates don’t have to worry about it.

“When you see everything that has happened since that last goal it feels even more important now,” said the Londoner.  

“That game felt massive at the time and it’s become even more so with no more football possible after that. It just shows that you should always treat every match as if it’s the biggest of the season as you never know what might be around the corner.

“It’s crazy that the relegation stuff is still not settled. Sometimes I see reports about lawsuits and the rest and I can imagine how tough it must be for the clubs in that position.

“I’m sure the league will try to do what’s best and right for all of the clubs. It’s just a relief that we don’t have to worry about it.

“But it should also make us more determined to make sure we’re not near that end of the table again this season.

“I feel we’re looking strong as a group and settled with most of the squad still here from last year apart from one or two new faces. That means we can work on things like tactics and drills right from the start of pre-season. We’re all bonding together.”

Obika was St Mirren’s top scorer with a dozen goals, eight more than the next players on the list. Jim Goodwin is eager to give his leading striker a bit of help but Obika is happy to continue to carry the burden. He now has his sights set on becoming the first St Mirren player since Doug Somner in 1981 to score 20 goals in a top-flight season.

He added: “I’m happy to have that pressure of scoring most of the goals. As a striker people are always going to look to you to do that.

“I was pleased with how it was going this year before the season ended. I had been looking at the last eight games or so and thinking I could get my total even higher.

“I wanted to keep the goals tallying up. Now I’ve got a pre-season in me that I didn’t have last year so from the first minute I want to hit the ground running.

“I used to always set 20 goals as my target when I was younger. Now I don’t want to put any limits on it.

“I wouldn’t want to get to 20 and then switch off thinking it was job done. So this season I’ll aim for 20 to start with but then keep going. There’s no limit.

“It’s a big number but I’m confident in my abilities. If you put the work in at training, then you usually get the benefits on a matchday.

“But I know all the other forward players at the club are desperate to chip in with more goals as well. You’ll see goals from all throughout the team this season.”

Obika signed last summer just the day before Saints’ league opener at Easter Road but revealed this summer has been a lot less frenetic.

“Last season I only arrived two days before our first league game and signed the day before and it was all a bit of a rush to get ready,” he revealed. ”I didn’t know anyone’s name in that first game!

“Now it’s a different time. We feel more confident and we’re going to run and fight for each other.”