CRAIG Bryson has represented Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and St Johnstone in the Premiership, spent years playing in the Championship in England with Derby County and Cardiff City and also sampled international football with Scotland.

So the cultured box-to-box midfielder is acutely aware just how talented and determined a player has to be to succeed at the highest level of the professional game.

He has no doubts at all that his McDiarmid Park team mate Ali McCann is more than capable of moving on to a higher standard in the not-too-distant future. 

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Celtic, who will need to replace Scott Brown this summer when their captain and on-field talisman departs for Aberdeen, have been repeatedly linked with a move for McCann in recent weeks.

Their scouts have watched the 21-year-old in action on several occasions in the 2020/21 campaign and had a representative at Hampden on Sunday.

The Northern Ireland internationalist helped the Betfred Cup winners beat St Mirren 2-1 and book a date in the Scottish Cup final on May 22.

Bryson, who once again played alongside McCann at the weekend, feels the Edinburgh-born prospect has the ability and the mentality needed to represent the Glasgow giants.

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However, he suspects the Parkhead outfit will not be the only interested party and thinks that a money-spinning transfer down south will also be an option.

And the 34-year-old, who last week agreed a contract extension that ties him to St Johnstone until the summer of 2022, has urged him to stay and sample European football next term.

Callum Davidson’s side – who travel to play John Kennedy’s team in their penultimate Premiership match of the season tomorrow night - can book a place in either the Europa League or the new Conference League if they finish fifth in the Premiership or win the Scottish Cup.

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“He can play anywhere in midfield for us and is very good at whatever he’s asked to do,” said Bryson.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw he wasn’t on the (Scottish Football Writers’ Association) Young Player of the Year list - until it was pointed out to me that he wasn’t eligible because he’s a Northern Ireland international (only Scots can win the SFWA award).

“He would definitely have been in with a shout of winning it otherwise when you look at the season he’s had with us and the international recognition he’s getting (McCann made his debut for his adopted homeland against Austria in November). He’s been fantastic.

“I thought he was a really good player when I played against him and I’ve seen the high standards he sets in training every day. You know what you’re going to get every game.

“He understands his role in the team. The gaffer sometimes gets annoyed because he’s got too much energy and wants to run about too much. That was me when I was his age.”

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Bryson added: “He’s got a massive future ahead of him. Hopefully he’ll move on to bigger and better things when the time is right for him and St Johnstone.

“You know the gaffer and the team are doing something right when players are getting linked with other clubs. I hope they stay, but I can see there being a lot of interest in Ali.”

Bryson spent three season playing in First Division with Clyde and four campaigns in the Premiership with Kilmarnock before joining Derby back in 2011 and thinks McCann should bide his time before moving on. 

“Everybody has different ideas about their career and there are players at different stages,” he said. “But St Johnstone is a good place to be just now.

“There have been plenty of players in the past who have left Scottish football too soon and ended up back here quicker than they would have hoped. It’s not a bad thing to get another year’s experience before you move on.”

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Bryson wasn’t involved in the Betfred Cup final win over Livingston at Hampden back in February and is looking forward to being part of the Scottish Cup final encounter with Hibs after playing in the semi-final.

He feels youngsters like McCann – and Rangers loanee Glenn Middleton, who set up Chris Kane for the opener and netted the second himself against St Mirren on Sunday, as well – should savour every moment of the occasion.

The former Scotland internationalist reckons they have the chance to help St Johnstone, who had only won one major honour before in their entire 137 year history, make history by doing the double. 

“It would have to be right up there among the greatest achievements in Scottish football if we win both cups,” he said.

“I don’t think anyone in their right mind would have put money on that at the start of the season.  If we do it, finish fifth and get into Europe I can't see how the gaffer won’t be Manager of the Year. 

“It would be massive and not just something that St Johnstone fans talk about. And it wouldn’t just be in Scottish football. 

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“Without sounding disrespectful, there are probably people down south who have never heard of St Johnstone. It would be a massive story.  It would be similar to Leicester City winning the league down south.

“The older pros at St Johnstone have said to the younger lads they just have to enjoy these moments. These sort of occasions don’t come around a lot in your career.

“Look at myself. This is the first Scottish Cup final that I have played in and I have been I the game for 15 or 20 years. You have to enjoy it, but you have to put in the work. Hopefully we can come out on top on the 22nd.”