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St Johnstone star Craig Bryson loved cup final experience – despite personal disappointment

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 28: St Johnstone's Michael O'Halloran, Jamie McCart, Shaun Roonet and Craig Bryson (l-R) with the Betfred Cup trophy during the Betfred Cup final between Livingston and St Johnstone at Hampden Stadium on February 28, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group) **Free for first use ; 0ca92c10-791e-4a1b-ac60-347126e929a0
Craig Bryson, far right, with teammates, from left, Michael O'Halloran, Jamie McCart and Shaun Rooney.

Craig Bryson would have loved to have been on the Hampden pitch but still enjoyed every minute of St Johnstone’s Betfred Cup final win.

There aren’t many more challenging experiences for a footballer than to be sitting on the sidelines as a substitute for such a huge match, hoping but failing to be called upon.

That was what happened to midfielder Bryson but, showing admirable character, he genuinely relished the occasion as Saints beat Livingston 1-0 last Sunday.

He said: “Picking up the trophy was a fantastic experience for me personally and a great achievement for this club and this group of players.

“I have loved every minute of it.

“From a completely selfish point of view obviously I was disappointed not to come on to the pitch.

“However, it is a small squad and everyone played their part in the previous rounds.”

Happy as everyone else

He added: “The gaffer picked his team for the final and I was just as happy as everyone else that we had won the trophy.

“If I am completely honest I probably wasn’t thinking of picking up a cup medal when I left Aberdeen to come to St Johnstone.

“When the competition started away to Kelty Hearts on a cold midweek night getting changed in a Portacabin I don’t think anyone was thinking of winning the trophy.

“But we felt we had a really good chance of progressing from the group stages and once you do that you are only a couple of games away from Hampden and a semi-final. That was our motivation.

“We believed we could get to the final and win it.”

Bryson revealed the Perth players didn’t exactly paint the town red – or blue – in these coronavirus times, what with a league match to play against Hamilton on Wednesday.

And the hard work has continued, with today’s crucial home clash against Hibs to prepare for as they aim to sneak into the top six before the split.

No partying

“There were no real celebrations – no partying,” said Bryson.

“I was home for six o’clock and the gaffer had us in training for the Hamilton game (a 1-1 draw) the next day.

“There’s been no time for celebrations. We had a game in midweek to prepare for and now it’s on to Hibs.

“It’s unfortunate we didn’t get the chance to celebrate properly but we are in the middle of a pandemic.

“Families are being torn apart because of this virus so it is hard to sit here and say we are gutted we never got to celebrate winning the tournament.

“But when everything starts to settle down I’m sure we will appreciate what an achievement it was.

“And the club will do things in the right way when it is allowed.”

With silverware already safe inside McDiarmid Park, there is still a huge amount still left to play for this season.

Top six hopes

Saints have an outside chance of getting into the Premiership’s top six in time for the split, while the Scottish Cup has been given the go-ahead.

The midfielder said: “We have to win this weekend because we are five points behind St Mirren so we can’t slip up.

St Johnstone midfielder Craig Bryson. Pic: SNS.

“We need to win our games and hope results elsewhere go our way.

“If we could get into the top six, as well as winning a trophy, it would be a fantastic season for this club.

“We have to give ourselves the chance to do that by beating Hibs.”

Despite his personal disappointment at not getting on last Sunday, Bryson is pleased to be tallying up more game time than he had at Pittodrie.

He said: “I had a tough spell at Aberdeen through injury but I moved on and came here feeling a lot better.

“I got a good amount of time to get fit, did a lot of work with the physio and sports scientist so that has given me the base fitness I needed.

“The gaffer here has helped me out. He has managed me well and hasn’t tried to play me in every game.

“I think I’ve done fine for St Johnstone and long may that continue.

“I have enjoyed it,” added Bryson.

“It is a good place to come to every day. Training is good, we have a good group of lads and a great team spirit.

“We have been playing quite well – maybe not picking up the results we want all the time – but have been playing good football.

“The manager breeds that with the good work he does on the training ground with us.

“I have been fit for pretty much every game since I came here, we have won a trophy and have the chance of the top six – so it probably couldn’t have gone much better.”

Wonder goal

Meanwhile, Bryson revealed he had a great view of Guy Melamed’s superb goal against Hamilton as he had been subbed off by that time.

He said: “I watched it from the stand and, even at the time, you think: ‘Wow, that’s a really good finish.’

“First of all you have to credit Liam Gordon for the pass because he picked him out perfectly.

“But the way Guy took the touch and the shot so quickly was outstanding.

“It was an excellent goal.”