Not only does Ali McCann deserve to be crowned Scotland’s young player of the season, according to St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright.
He also deserves to be in contention for the overall award.
In any normal football year we would be at the point when footballers and football writers start selecting their shortlists of the outstanding performers during the campaign nearing a conclusion.
Saints players have ordinarily been overlooked during award season, even during the recent golden era for the Perth club.
The exception was Stevie May winning the Scottish Football Writers’ Association young player of the year for 2014.
McCann has a rock solid claim to scoop the young player awards from his peers and journalists given the outstanding consistency shown by the 20-year-old in his first Premiership campaign.
But the standard of his performances also put him alongside the best of the senior pros, as far as Wright is concerned.
McCann is likely to need a wheelbarrow to take home the silverware Saints supporters’ clubs will pass in his direction.
In his 35 appearances, he has scored four crucial goals, set up others and been a dynamic, creative and energetic presence at the heart of the Perth midfield from the moment he was thrown into the deep end at Celtic Park on day one of the league campaign.
The likes of Aaron Hickey at Hearts and Lewis Smith of Hamilton Accies will get name-checks for the young player category but McCann is out on his own on that front in Wright’s eye.
And it is a mark of the Northern Ireland under-21 international’s standards that the McDiarmid Park manager believes he deserves to be put in the company of the very best of the established stars in the top flight not merely the rising ones.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” said the Saints boss.
“I haven’t looked at any lists so don’t know what he has or hasn’t been included in.
“I may be biased but, with how he has performed all season, he is certainly the best young player in the league.
“If you look at how well he has done, there is a case for him to be nominated in the main player of the year.
“He has been outstanding.”
McCann spent the second half of last season on loan at Stranraer, where he first got accustomed to playing regular first team football.
Prior to that there had been one league start with Saints in a 2017/18 end-of-term dead rubber, and three substitute appearances.
“Ali has played almost every minute for us this season and has added goals to his game,” Wright added. “He is a young player who is just getting better and better.
“He is great to work with because he listens and is prepared to put the work in. He has an unbelievable attitude and desire.
“When you add a fair amount of ability, you end up with a very good overall package.
“I know that a few clubs are aware of him.”
When club football resumes is anybody’s guess at the moment – and the same is true for the international game.
Had the coronavirus pandemic not decimated the sporting calendar, Northern Ireland could have been playing a play-off final to qualify for Euro 2020 this week.
The European Championships have been put back a year and, with McCann an established under-21 player on the cusp of breaking into the full Irish squad, the 12-month delay may have opened up an opportunity for him to get to the rescheduled finals.
“The Euros in 2021 is something that I’m sure will be in the back of Ali’s mind,” said Wright.
“What he needs to do when we come back is pick up where he left off and continue to play at a high level.
“He was in the under-21 squad and if he remains there he will just need to make sure he performs as well.”