AFTER watching Ali McCann and Jason Kerr depart for pastures new on deadline day, Liam Craig admits that St Johnstone are in transition ahead of this afternoon’s clash with Rangers. But the Saints stalwart reckons there are few clubs better placed to handle the potentially sticky period than the Perth outfit.

Barring a two-year spell at Hibs between 2013 and 2015, Craig has called McDiarmid Park home since 2007 and has witnessed the club’s rise from a provincial second-tier club to cup double winners firsthand.

During that time there are those that have become part of the furniture in Perth. Alan Mannus, Steven Anderson and Steven MacLean have all joined the backroom staff after ending their playing careers, while the likes of Craig, Murray Davidson and David Wotherspoon are long-serving members of the first team.

It’s this continuity that gives Craig hope ahead of today’s match against the champions, and the 33-year-old reckons that consistent approach has been key to Saints’ heady rise over the last decade or so.

“The continuity in the squad has always been important, even if you go back to the team which won the league and got promotion back in 2009,” he explained. “There has always been a good dressing room here.

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“You look at the amount of games players have played for St Johnstone over the last 11 or 12 years and it certainly proves that. Players who have come to the club have really bought into what it is all about. It has given us success.

“When you maintain those standards – the top-six finishes and the four trophies that we’ve won in that period if you include the First Division – I just think people really buy into what the club is about when they come here.

“They realise what a good club it is. We speak about Jason and Ali leaving and that’s great for them, but you look at the players that have stayed here for a long time.

“You stay here because it’s a great club and you’re well looked after.”

Kerr’s departure leaves a captain-shaped hole in Callum Davidson’s squad but Craig has no concerns over the question of his succession. Between the experienced leaders in the dressing room and the club’s own way of doing things, he is certain a suitable replacement will be found.

Front and centre of the list of potential candidates is central defender Liam Gordon – although Craig insists he has no idea who the new Saints skipper will be.

“I don’t know what the manager is going to do, far from it,” he said. “Liam Gordon – he’s so vocal – he’s the one who’s taken the armband if Jason or me haven’t been playing but I think we’ve got a lot of good pros here.

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“That’s important. Liam comes into meetings with us, and I went into meetings with Ando when I was younger.

“That’s the way the club works behind the scenes – speaking to the player and the chairman about different things. Now that Jason is away, whoever it is, it’s important that we get another couple of players seeing how it all works behind the scenes.

“It breeds that continuity and there’s no drastic change when a player or a manager leaves.

“I don’t know who’s going to be captain. You could pick from Liam, Zander [Clark], Jamie [McCart], David Wotherspoon, myself, Muz [Davidson] – but I’m quite happy with the supporting role I’ve been doing over the last 18 months.

“You go back to Jason and watching him develop in that role off the park. Nobody teaches you how to be a captain, never mind a captain during a pandemic when you’ve got other stuff to worry about rather than just a match or a training session.

“Watching him grow in that area was brilliant and that’s why he’s ready to go down south and have a really good career.”