It is a bitter-sweet accolade for Danny McNamara, as complimentary as it is poignant.
When he leaves Perth in a few days’ time, the on-loan defender will claim a small portion of St Johnstone folklore as the best signing the club’s supporters never saw play.
McNamara has been a made-to-measure fans’ favourite, with his fearless tackling, youthful exuberance, boundless energy and impressive skillset.
And in any other season bar this one, his goal-saving intervention on day one at Tannadice would have created an instant bond with the Saints crowd that would have strengthened week on week.
But this is football 2020-style and McNamara’s spell at McDiarmid Park, short in quantity but deep in quality, will be remembered by what was seen on a smartphone, a tablet or a laptop rather than lived in a stadium.
“I’m staying in Perth and I bump into St Johnstone fans all the time,” said the Republic of Ireland international. “They have been nothing but positive to me about my time here.
“They say I have been brilliant and it’s a buzz to hear that.
“It’s just such a shame there were no fans allowed into games when I’ve been here. I actually feel that would lift my performances by another 10 per cent.
“That’s the annoying thing.
“I think fans could have influenced some of our results as well. When we were 1-0 up at Aberdeen and Celtic, for example, the fans would have been on their backs. But it’s just one of those things, I suppose.”
Talking of bitter-sweet, that would fairly accurately sum up McNamara’s emotions when the news was broken to him that Millwall manager Gary Rowett had decided to curtail his season-long loan with Saints to take him back to London at the start of January.
On the one hand, there is the endorsement of his work in Scotland and the prospect of proving himself in the English Championship. On the other, there is a job half-done and a cup semi-final, and hopefully a final, that he won’t now be a part of.
This is not a young man who will be skipping across the border, humming ‘London’s Calling’ and yearning for a plate of pie and mash or jellied eels.
“In my head I was here until the end of the season,” said McNamara. “That’s what I thought right up until I was told the other day.
“I’m gutted that I’m leaving because I’ve loved it here. St Johnstone have improved me so much, especially working under Callum (Davidson) and working with the lads around me.
“But hopefully I go back down to Millwall and put into practise what I’ve learned up here.”
He added: “What have I learned the most? It’s men’s football.
“I’ve not really had a run of games playing wing-back before and that’s what they play at Millwall.
“Callum has developed me as a wing-back so much, urging me to get forward and put crosses into the box and being direct. I’ve learned loads from Callum and from Macca (Steven MacLean) and Eck (Alec Cleland) as well.
“I can’t thank them enough. It’s been a hell of a time. Yes, it’s mixed emotions. It’s a weird one.”
Even though McNamara hasn’t kicked a ball in the Betfred Cup – he missed the group games because he was on international duty and he was an unused substitute for the quarter-final against Dunfermline – it would have been a shock if he wasn’t selected for next month’s last-four clash with Hibs had his loan not been cut short.
“That’s another gutting thing,” he admitted. “I really wanted to play in the semi-final. Who doesn’t want to play at Hampden Park?
“It’s just one of those things, though. I will take it on the chin.
“It will be hard to watch it but I think it will be for every game. Every team I’ve been at I keep an eye out for their results but St Johnstone will be different. It’s hard to explain.
“I feel this has been one of my best moves — it has been a life changing move. St Johnstone will always have a place in my heart.”
Reminiscing and following Saints from afar couldn’t be further from McNamara’s mind at the moment, however. The Perth side are winless in seven Premiership matches and need victories against Hamilton Accies and Ross County before he hits the road.
“My mindset is still on St Johnstone at the moment,” he said. “I want to go out with a bang in my next two games – leave on a high with six points. The last thing I want is it ending on a low.”
Browny’s a good footballer and will settle in well here.
Another Millwall full-back, James Brown, is being lined up as a possible replacement, and McNamara would expect him to be a success with Saints if that happens.
“Browny’s a good lad, a good footballer and he will settle in well here,” he said. “The lads are so easy going and they will make him feel welcome.
“Hopefully he will get a run of games like I did and the chance to impress.
“He’s maybe a bit more of an out and out right-back than me but he will let his football do the talking.”
Who knows what could happen further down the line?
Having just turned 22, McNamara has the bulk of his career still ahead of him and he may yet get the chance to be a St Johnstone footballer for a second time and to play in front of St Johnstone fans for a first.
“I wouldn’t shut the door on that,” he said. “No chance. It has been brilliant here.
“I’ve loved it and who knows what could happen further down the line? It will be interesting to see what happens.”