ST JOHNSTONE coach Steven MacLean is delighted to see midfielder Ali McCann gaining recognition after another excellent season for the Perth club – even his performances mean he is also gaining admiring glances from elsewhere.

The 21-year-old’s displays were rewarded with a debut for Northern Ireland in November and McCann has went on to make another four appearances for his country, grabbing his first goal with a classy finish to make it 3-0 against Malta at the end of May.

McCann’s rise has come as no surprise to MacLean. And the Saints fans’ favourite reckons the best is still to come from the central midfielder.

“He is a top player and it was great to see him on the scoresheet for Northern Ireland,” MacLean said. “He has had a fantastic season. When you watch him he just seems to do everything well.  

“Hopefully he continues growing and keeps improving. I’m sure he will. He’s a great kid and deserves everything he gets. 

“The ground he covers in games is fantastic. He is a top player and he has proved that. He’s been a huge part of our most successful season and hopefully there is more to come.”

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McCann played a crucial role in the heart of Callum Davidson’s team as the rookie manager steered Saints to an unlikely Scottish and League Cup double.

Those performances have not went unnoticed, though, with Celtic keeping tabs on the Edinburgh-born midfielder. MacLean hopes that McCann remains at McDiarmid Park for the foreseeable – but accepts that when you play as well as McCann has, it’s only a matter of time before clubs start queuing up with their chequebooks open.

“It will be hard to keep him,” he conceded. “I think if someone was to come in, the chairman and Callum have said that they will need to pay a big fee. 

“They will come in if he keeps performing and teams will be coming to watch him. 

“He will get everything he deserves as long as he keeps working hard. He will just get better and better. 

“If someone comes in to take him we will just have to move on. He will deserve it if he does get his move.”