Assistant manager Billy Dodds admits Ross County may have become embroiled in a battle for top-flight survival without top scorer Liam Boyce.
Boyce is the Premiership’s top marksman with 23 goals – the first player from a bottom-six club to head the scoring charts in the post-split era.
The striker’s last-day brace ensured County beat Kilmarnock to finish the season in seventh place.
“We could have been bang in it, or in those play-offs,” Dodds said.
“We had a spell where we hit bottom of the league as well. I’m not taking that away from him, but it’s definitely a team game, it’s not all about Liam Boyce.”
‘He bought into the sports science’
In 34 appearances, the 26-year-old Northern Ireland international has netted 47.9% of County’s 48 league goals, out-scoring his nearest rival, Scott Sinclair of champions Celtic, by two.
When removed from the corresponding matches, those 23 goals also equate to 26 league points, more than half County’s eventual total of 46 in a congested bottom six.
“Boycey is one of those boys, he’s meticulous with everything he does,” Dodds said. “He went to Werder Bremen, he was eating McDonald’s and things like that.
“It was probably because he wasn’t educated. He was coming from Irish football.
“He got his chance to go to Werder Bremen because he’s a natural goalscorer. He’s sitting in the hotel, probably eating junk food, but when somebody educates him, he’s that meticulous that he’s just grasped it.
“He’s come back, bought into the sports science side of things. He’s dropped so much weight, he’s strengthened, he’s sharper, he’s just gathered everything the last two-and-a-half years.
“It’s turned him into a top player. But that’s come from him. We can only say, its available to you.
“In two-and-a-half years, you wouldn’t believe the way his body has changed. It’s helped him become an all-round better player.
“When you’re a striker, a natural finisher, that’s always in you, but the strength and conditioning side of it has just made him a special player.”
‘Plenty pennies’ required to buy Boyce
Former Scotland striker Dodds believes Boyce “could have scored a lot more” and says his goals have been “priceless” to the club.
“It’s worth a lot of money just to stay up and a lot of money just to finish best of the rest,” he said.
“To finish seventh instead of finishing 10th is huge for us in terms of places and prize money.
“I’m not putting it all down to him. It’s togetherness that makes Ross County, but he has certainly stood out over the last couple of seasons.”
County boss Jim McIntyre has unsurprisingly expressed his desire to keep Boyce, who has a year left on his current contract, in Dingwall.
Dodds is adamant it will take a sizeable offer to prise the striker away from the Highlands.
“We would like to keep him for longer, but we can’t deny somebody his chance,” Dodds added.
“It’s going to take a lot of money to get him – I’m close with Boycey, we speak about a lot of things, but he’s never mentioned leaving the club. I wouldn’t deny him his chance, but it’s going to take plenty of pennies to get a player of Liam Boyce’s calibre.
“[He’s] not just a goalscorer, I mean an all-round player. He’s so intelligent, he’s got unbelievable ability for a big lad, he’s a top player.”
When asked if County would look for a transfer fee in excess of £1m, Dodds replied: “It would be up there. Especially for a goalscorer.
“Strikers are special, people pay more money for you.
“I’m not going to say how much because you don’t know what team comes in – there might be Scottish clubs, there might be English clubs.
“We’ll be speaking to him and we’ll see what he’s thinking.
“We’ve never said to him, come on, what are you thinking? We left him, because he was in such a good vein of form, plus we wanted to get the relegation trouble out the way first.”