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St Johnstone midfielder Liam Craig hopes his McDiarmid Park career isn’t over

Liam Craig and Tommy Wright.
Liam Craig and Tommy Wright.

Liam Craig is holding on to the hope that his St Johnstone career isn’t over.

The experienced midfielder has enjoyed two successful spells at McDiarmid Park, interrupted only by a switch to Hibs.

A total of 398 games leaves only Steven Anderson above the former Falkirk man in the all-time appearances chart for Saints.

Reaching Anderson’s 441 will be a big ask, especially with no competitive football on the horizon anytime soon, but Craig would like the chance to give it a go.

Out of contract in a few weeks, he has already started along the road of becoming a coach and is also kept busy with his work as the Scottish PFA chairman.

But Craig isn’t ready to call time on his playing days just yet – and his summer priority will be securing a new deal in Perth.

“I’m still only 33 and believe I have a lot to offer in a playing capacity,” he said.

“Obviously my contract is up at the end of May and it is something you think about. I want to play as long as I can.

“If the club wants to talk to me about extending my playing contract I would be delighted.

“It will be the club’s decision for me to leave now, not mine. The relationship I have with the club is brilliant and I think it has worked both ways.

“I want to stay as long as possible and hopefully that will get sorted out one way or another in the coming weeks.

“I was well on my way to making 400 appearances for the club before the pandemic.”

Derek McInnes signed Craig for Saints the first time but it was Tommy Wright who brought him back after his two-year spell at Easter Road. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to describe that summer as a career crossroads.

“Back in 2015 I couldn’t get a contract or a training session,” he recalled.

“Tommy brought me in to train and gave me the opportunity to play in the Premiership again.

“At 28 years of age I wasn’t sure where my career was going. But he gave me a contract and I’m just delighted that in the five years since, we have carried on the success.

“Yes, at times there had been arguments, but it was never personal. It would get sorted right away and we would move on from it.

“Tommy is someone I have the utmost respect for and I am forever indebted to him for giving me a second chance.

“I was genuinely struggling to get a contract anywhere. When he brought me back I just wanted to make sure I didn’t let him down.”

Craig added: “The impact he had on me both on and off the pitch was huge. He got me involved in the coaching side of things.

“I was doing a wee bit with the youth team but he wanted me to get involved with Alan Maybury in the under-20s and reserves.

“I made a point when I came back to the club that I wanted to do my coaching badges.”

Wright’s departure at the weekend caught first team coach Alec Cleland by surprise and the same was true for Craig.

“Tommy is someone I had been in contact with over the last few weeks,” he said. “I spoke to him at length at times and it wasn’t something I saw coming.

“When he phoned on the Saturday morning I thought it would be another catch-up call.

“I was shocked, disappointed in a way, but also delighted that Tommy got to do it on his terms. It was his decision to step away from it.

“I am sure he will be delighted when he looks at the memories people have been posting and the words they have been saying.

“Every word of praise he has been given is justified for the job he did at the club.

“We didn’t start this season great, but it shows the measure of him that he sticks with it and believes in what he is doing.

“You could see how much we had turned it around. We were well on our way to finishing in the top six.

“Tommy is someone who I know I can always lift the phone to for advice. He will be honest, like he was as a manager.”

THE CONTENDERS: From John Robertson to David Healy, who is next for the St Johnstone job?

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