GREG BOLGER believes that his St Patrick's Athletic side have found the ideal mixture of styles to turn Liam Buckley's team into an outfit capable of a real title challenge.
Pats, who play UCD tonight hoping to extend their lead over Sligo Rovers at the top of the table, have been the 'nearly men' of the League of Ireland scene in recent seasons, a team playing a nice brand of football who are capable of a top-three finish or a Cup run without actually winning anything.
But Saints midfielder Bolger, who had his skills honed in a four-year spell at UCD, thinks that the current crop of Pats players have more steel in their game now, one of the reasons why they have managed to get on top of the table for the first time in a year.
"We have mixed it up more and we're getting the results at the moment," says Bolger, one of the unsung heroes in a Pats side who are now unbeaten in 11 games.
"We are a bit more direct this season, we mix up the style a bit more. It's not tic-tac the whole time, we can stretch teams more with Conan Byrne and Christopher Forrester out wide, we are playing in the opponents' half more this season than we did last year."
Their win ratio is impressive, but so is their defensive record with four clean sheets in the last five games.
"Winning games with clean sheets is title-winning form," says Bolger.
"Last season we had a lot of clean sheets but we didn't score enough goals, the media were giving us stick about not taking our chances and not scoring goals, we were maybe winning games 1-0 but this season we are scoring more goals.
"You need the belief to win it. We have stepped up a bit from our level last season, we had a decent season last year with the run in Europe and a title challenge and we were in the race until the second-last game of the season.
"It took us time to gel as we had a new group of players, maybe last year was our season to gel and this is the year when we can push on."
Pats enjoyed a 1-0 win over UCD earlier in the season, at a time when the Students were really struggling and looked like relegation candidates.
But amazingly, a UCD side which took just one point from the first nine games of the campaign have managed three wins and a draw from the last four.
As a former UCD player, Bolger knows all about the threat that a College side can pose, and the Wexford native is a huge admirer of the work done by his former boss Martin Russell.
"With Martin Russell in charge of the team you have to be very wary of UCD. The way they play the game, the fact that they do things the right way, they are a great side," said Bolger.
"Martin will have the UCD players well-prepared for this game, he will tell them to go out and express themselves, go out and try to be the best player you can be. He will tell the players to go out and do it for themselves as individuals and then the rewards will come for the team. There isn't the pressure at UCD to win leagues like you get at other clubs but it's a great place to learn the game, and Martin Russell deserves a huge amount of praise for what he has done.
"It's good for us to play them tonight as we know they are the team in form in the league at the moment so we have to be on top of our game if we're to get the three points. We are playing well but we have to keep that run going," he added.
"We are looking for the league title, it's a long time since St Pats won the league so if we keep playing the way we have been we can have success this season. We have been good in our own games and the other matches went our way on Friday, with Derry and Sligo dropping points, we have to keep up our own run now."