St Johnstone’s cup double was the stuff of boyhood dreams for Craig Bryson.
And the Hampden hero will forever look back on his short stint in Perth with enormous pride as he and his McDiarmid Park team-mates “brought joy” into the lives of supporters enduring the misery of a global pandemic.
Bryson’s second season at McDiarmid Park was largely a tale of injury woes, which led to him being released at the end of a frustrating campaign for player and club.
But in his first, he played a big part in making it Saints’ greatest ever.
“When I signed for St Johnstone, I just wanted to play as many games as possible,” said the veteran midfielder.
“Luckily for me, that happened in the 2020/21 season.
“We were bottom or close to the bottom when I arrived.
“To then go and have the season we did was just incredible.
“It was such a tough time in people’s lives around the world and we were able to bring joy to St Johnstone fans.”
Bryson didn’t feature in the Betfred Cup final but he was a starter against Hibs when one national trophy became two.
“Growing up, the Scottish Cup final was always the showpiece of the season,” said the former Kilmarnock and Derby County man.
“As a young lad you had aspirations of becoming a footballer and always watched that fixture.
“The Scottish Cup was always the main one for me. It’s the one that everyone wants to win.
“Winning it with St Johnstone in the manner we did was unbelievable.
Scottish Cup 2020/21 champions ⚽️🏆
A cup double for St Johnstone! pic.twitter.com/D0931RQ2Y7
— BBC Sport Scotland (@BBCSportScot) May 22, 2021
“Those are the memories that last a lifetime with you.
“We saw the manager let his hair down and become one of the lads. He enjoyed it like everyone else.
“It would have been great to have all the fans and families there to experience the moment too.
“We had a tight-knit group and there were no ‘big-time’ players.
“Everyone bought into how the manager wanted to play.
“We knew our jobs and I thoroughly enjoyed my time at a real family club.”
Boots not getting hung up yet
At 35, Bryson knows there isn’t long left in his playing career but the ex-Scotland international isn’t ready to hang the boots up just yet after parting company with Saints.
“I’m feeling a good bit better now and I do want to continue playing,” he said.
“I’ve had a few phone calls from clubs who want to sign me.
“I don’t just want to sign anywhere to pick up a wage. If I was going to do that, I’d rather retire.
“I do think I can continue playing and I want to do that.
“What level that will be at next season, I’m not sure yet. I’ve not made a decision.
“But 100 per cent I will try to continue and take it from there. If it goes well, great. If not, I’ll hold my hands up.”
— Craig Bryson (@cbryson44) May 27, 2022
An ankle injury prevented Bryson from getting an ideal McDiarmid Park farewell.
But he has been touched by supporters recognising his contribution to the St Johnstone cause.
“You see the messages and it’s always nice to know you have contributed and the fans appreciated it,” said Bryson.
“We part ways with a good relationship and I’ll never forget my time at St Johnstone.
“If I do get the chance to come back as an opposition player, the fans will have my full respect.”