It has been a difficult start to the season for Steven MacLean and St Johnstone, but in amongst two opening league defeats and a disastrous League Cup campaign, there has been a shining light. 

Dimitar Mitov arrived in Scotland as a relatively unknown figure when he moved to McDiarmid Park in the summer, but his impact in the Fair City has been instant and if supporters did not know much about him prior to his move, they certainly know all about his football talents now. 

The 26-year-old has been a star performer for Saints this term and after three man-of-the-match displays in his opening three league games, the Bulgarian’s signature looks to be one of the best pieces of business accomplished this summer transfer window. 

Footballers in Scotland are usually desperate for a move to England to showcase their talents, but for Mitov the exposure of the game north of the border was an enticing challenge that he simply could not turn down, especially with international ambitions. 

Growing up a proud Bulgarian in a football-mad family, a full international call-up was always the dream for the goalkeeper, and after just two Scottish Premiership games that vision became a reality. 

The former Cambridge and Charlton man will now be looking to feature against Iran and Montenegro to gain a full Bulgarian debut over the international break, and after keeping a historic clean sheet against Celtic last week life could not be much better for Mitov. 

“Honestly it has been my biggest dream,” he explained to Herald Sport. “It's been my number one target since I started playing football because when I was going through the ranks I was actually captain of Bulgaria youth teams. 

“Getting that phone call last Monday I literally could not express how happy I was and how honoured I was to represent my country. I'm really looking forward to meeting up with all the boys and showing how good I am.  

“My family are mad football fans. It has been football in our family 24/7. Even before me. My dad used to be a goalkeeper and to be fair, he is still a goalkeeper. He plays Sunday league back in Bulgaria and is still going strong. 

“They are all very proud. They were happy because they know how much I sacrifice and how much I've dedicated myself for this opportunity and this chance. I couldn't be happier and I know they are super happy for me as well.” 

Mitov believes that starring in the Scottish Premiership was the final piece of the puzzle that landed his international call-up and that is exactly why he decided to move to St Johnstone. 

But after starting out as a striker as a child, things could have been so different for the Montana-born keeper. 

“I was just like every other kid when I was younger. I wanted to be a footballer and I was actually an outfield player before I was a goalkeeper,” the Saints keeper explained to Herald Sport. 

“I was chasing the glory like every other kid. I wanted to be a striker, grabbing the goals, and grabbing the headlines. The older I was getting I realised that I just wasn't quick. I was really slow, so I was never going to make a career out of being an outfield player. 

“I was the tallest kid in my local team and I just got stuck in goal because I was the biggest one. From there I went on trial to Hristo Stoichkov’s academy back home and I got accepted before getting scouted and coming over to England.” 

On the way Scottish football is viewed in comparison to the lower leagues in England, Mitov continued: “It is weird in Bulgaria how they view England’s League One. They view it as the third division, they don’t think it is that good of a league, whereas I think it is a really good league. 

“Coming to Scotland you have the exposure and playing in giant games. Going and performing against 60,000, three times a year. That's only against Celtic and you obviously have Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs, they're all huge football clubs with a lot of followers.  

“The media coverage as well, it's not just your local media who cover the games, it is worldwide. More people watch the Scottish Premiership than League One that is not even a question. 

“That was definitely one of the reasons I came up here. If we leave the Bulgarian national team, we just look at the games you can play here, you can't play those games in League One.”  

Mitov was outstanding against Celtic last weekend and his man-of-the-match display resulted in him being named in team of the weeks across the country, including the official SPFL line-up. 

The goalkeeper was certainly busier than his opposite number Joe Hart, but Mitov was equally as impressed by the veteran Englishman, who pulled off an impressive save to deny Saints winger Dara Costelloe a debut goal at Parkhead. 

On meeting one of his heroes, Mitov said: “I just went to him and I said to him after the game ‘I can't believe I’m meeting you because you are one of my heroes’. 

“Growing up I've watched Joe Hart numerous times, playing for Man City and England and as a goalkeeper I have looked up to him. 

“When I knew I was coming to sign here I was thinking ‘oh my God, I can't wait to meet Joe Hart’. I was so happy because he was very complimentary towards me as well. 

“He said to me that I had an amazing game and what a stage do it. He said that not many goalkeepers play as well against Celtic at home. 

“He said I should be proud of myself. Just seeing the calibre of goalkeeper that he is and just being able to speak to him, he was super nice to me.  

“He took time to have a chat with me, he gave me his shirt and everything. It was really respectful and that is why I've got so much respect for him.  

“I'm really glad that I left a positive note in his mind. He's not going to come and say the things he said to me if I didn't have a good game. So that definitely means a lot to me.” 

Another interested spectator, who watched on from afar last weekend, was Mitov’s fellow countryman Stan Petrov. 

The Celtic legend had mixed emotions about the goalkeeper’s display, but he was delighted to see his fellow Bulgarian producing on the big stage in Scotland. 

Mitov said: “We've had numerous conversations on the phone. We've always stayed in touch. He's a super nice guy. He's always been there to help me.  

“At the moment he's having a charity game in Bulgaria for his foundation. So he's super busy and back home at the moment. He actually messaged me after the Celtic game saying that when he is back in Scotland we are going to meet up. 

“So I'm really looking forward to meeting him. He's an absolute legend. You know him and Dimitar Berbatov, growing up watching them they have definitely been our two best players after Hristo Stoichkov. 

“Listen, watching him, the career he has had, playing for Celtic, for Villa as well. He is an incredible guy as well, not just a really good footballer but such a nice person. 

“It was a shame that he missed the Celtic game last weekend but hopefully he is there for the next one and I have an even better performance!” 

Performing on the big stage is something that Mitov has become accustomed to after starring for Cambridge in a famous FA Cup win against Newcastle last year. 

And after gaining his first international call-up, the goalkeeper has now shifted his aspirations for the future. 

He added: “I always ask myself ‘imagine playing in front of this every single week’, that is literally the dream of every footballer to play in front of fans like that, it is honestly incredible.  

“Every football player wants to play as high as possible. And if I ever get the opportunity to play for Celtic or any other big club, then yeah obviously I would jump on board. 

“It's a completely different ball game playing for them because the expectations get higher, chances of winning trophies. Celtic have been winning the league here for a very long time now, and it's a huge football club.  

“I didn't realise how big the football club is until you get to Scotland. Wow. It's incredible but like I said it's definitely a dream of mine like every other footballer, to play at the biggest clubs possible.”