ANDY McNeil believes his former side can improve on last season’s success as long as they keep the core of their squad intact this term.

McNeil is enjoying the newest chapter in his career as a coach of Chinese Super League outfit Guangzhou R&F, but he revealed that he has kept in touch with his ex-team-mates at Cappielow

The ex-Ton keeper reckons Jim Duffy’s men can fight it out again with the cream of the Championship crop — despite a clear difference in resources.

Speaking from China, McNeil exclusively told the Tele: “I’ve been keeping up with the guys from Morton. Everyone has been doing pretty well. 

“I wasn’t surprised that the team continued their good form from when I was there last season.

“The players have done really well, the job the manager has done, and to compete with bigger teams like Dundee United who have far more resources, everyone did so well to get themselves into a good position last season.

“There’s no Hibs in the league now but with Inverness coming down they’ll still have a bigger budget. I also think there are guys from last season who made huge contributions and if they were to move on, it’s difficult to replace players like that. 

“Especially when you don’t have loads of money to replace like-for-like or offer big salaries.

“But if anyone is capable of doing a great job like he has done over the years, it’s Jim. So I think supporters can be optimistic about this season, and realistic as well.”

The 30-year-old remembers his time at Ton fondly and is of the impression that most of his former team-mates could cut it at a higher level. 

But he singled out goal scoring centre-back Thomas O’Ware and set-piece expert Ross Forbes for their contributions last season, admitting he wouldn’t be surprised to see them playing in the Premiership some time soon.

He said: “For Thomas O’Ware to score so many goals from centre-back is unbelievable. Ross Forbes as well scored a lot of goals and created a lot of assists and had big contributions.

“The numbers don’t lie, and they’ve done really well. They’ve played hundreds of league games, it’s not like they’re young players who teams would be taking a chance on. They’re physically and mentally mature and would be solid signings for most Premiership teams.

He added: “Andy Murdoch did brilliantly last season, Mark Russell at full-back is a really talented young player and people were always talking to me about him.

“Jai [Quitongo] was also unfortunate to get injured when he did, he could have been in a really fortunate position at the end of the season.

"But I’m sure it’ll be the same this season, he’s back fit and playing and I’m sure he’ll have opportunities in the future.”