When we first came up 5/6 years ago we made obvious progress and arguably continued to do so in Hartley's second season, despite a disappointing 8th placed finished. Disappointed by an 8th placed finished probably says it all about where this club needs to be to meet to meet fan expectation.
Since selling Stewart & Hemmings we consistently declined season on season. Constant attempts at quick fixes and trying to reinvent how to win a football game meant that any sort of consistency (widely regarded as the key to success) on and off the park was non existent.
The SPL fixture list can be cruel for a struggling side. You can't afford to have a poor result against a Hamilton away or Motherwell at home because your next 4 fixture could be Celtic, Rangers, Hearts, Aberdeen. All of a sudden you've gone 6 games without a win and the fans loose heart.
Even we had stayed up last season, all the evidence suggests we would have struggled again. I'm not sure the support could have coped with another season of winning once at home. So I am relieved in a sense that we have gone down a level. It has forced the Americans to really consider why things weren't working and credit it to them they have tried to change things. Hopefully that means when we do go back up we will have learned from past mistakes.
This season has been a mixed bag but I definitely see there being positive steps. We have a better squad than last season IMO. Our home form (in the league anyway) has been good. Actually looking forward to a Dundee home game is a massive change from last season in itself. Away from home of course hasn't been great and we need to find a style away that suits us. We are not a million miles away from being a team that can win away though, based on games I've seen.
United with Shankland and a settled squad were always going to be the favourites to win this league. For us, with a new squad of players, the minimum expectation was to be in the play offs and then, by the end of the season, genuinely look like a team that could win them. I've seen enough to say we will be in the play offs at least. I think the general consensus among fans, even the doom and gloomers, is that this team will only get better too.