The first is that Terry Butcher is now having nothing to do with the pre-match warm up. The tracksuit has vanished and has been replaced with a suit. Maurice Malpas has been left to put the troops through their paces before the game. Does this have any significance? It depends on what Butcher plans to do with the extra time he has just given himself. Chatting to the opposition manager will not be an option in real games and if he does not know our tactics by 2.30pm on a Saturday, what chance do we have? However, other managers are generally making preparations at this time and it is probably wise for El Tel to do the same.
While his dress may have changed, it was good to see Butcher back to haranguing referees from the touchline (the ref at Stenny had a word with him). There is nothing worse than seeing a manager slumped in the dug out, looking like a beaten man. Butcher must be seen to be caring and he needs to do everything he can to squeeze that little bit extra out of our players.
The other notable change before our two matches was the lack of a Cuddle. This ritual has taken place before every game since Dundee were dispatched 4-2 at Fir Park in January 2002. Have the players decided it looks silly or is there no longer the need to show team unity? Alternatively, if the players did huddle, would the temptation to bundle Pearo into the middle and give him a bleaching prove too strong?
While some small things have changed, there has been little in our performances so far to suggest we are going to enjoy a better season that last. Butcher seems decided on playing a 4-4-2 but there seem to be doubts over whether we have the players capable of playing the system. Both full backs give acres of space to opposing wide men to fire in crosses and our two centre backs – Partridge and Craigan – are neither dominating in the air or especially quick.
Up front, it looks as though we will be relying on McFadden more than ever. Alex Burns does look good on the ball but when he drops short to collect it, it leaves one lonely striker up front. Since it seems unlikely we can play Toastie as an out and out midfielder, it appears as though we might have another Stephen McMillan on our hands – a good player but with no obvious position.
So, minor changes but little difference has been made to the important areas on the pitch. Ayr have received two thumpings at Somerset already this pre-season and anything other than a comfortable away victory on Saturday will result in more questions being asked.