Craig thanks lucky stars he made re­turn to Perth

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FOOTBALL - GOR­DON BAN­NER­MAN

LIAM CRAIG has come a long way in two years. From be­ing cut loose by Hiber­nian – who were at that time lan­guish­ing in the Cham­pi­onship af­ter Terry Butcher’s side were rel­e­gated via the play-offs – to re­turn­ing to Perth where St John­stone man­ager Tommy Wright of­fered him a life­line.

But hav­ing en­dured a sum­mer of un­cer­tainty back in 2015, Craig has now firmed-up his fu­ture un­til 2019 af­ter sign­ing an ex­tended deal at McDiarmid Park this week.

Re­call­ing how the show of faith by Wright sal­vaged his ca­reer, Craig said: “I played in a game against Real So­ciedad at Methil and, while it wasn’t billed as a trial, I knew I hadn’t signed. That was prob­a­bly the most ner­vous I have ever been in the lead-up to a game.

“If I hadn’t made an im­pres­sion I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have been of­fered a con­tract here. It was good that the man­ager and Cal­lum David­son knew me well. I needed some­one to give me an op­por­tu­nity to play again.

“I was still only 28 and had been cap­tain of Hibs, but I found my­self with­out a club and even find­ing some­where to train was tough.

“Peter Hous­ton at Falkirk and James Fowler at Queen of the South did of­fer me fa­cil­i­ties and I am for­ever grate­ful to them. I had a re­ally good of­fer from Guise­ley in the Con­fer­ence and I was im­pressed with them. But it was part-time and if I had taken the deal there would have been no way back to full-time foot­ball. It was close to hap­pen­ing. I re­mem­ber be­ing on a trip to Dis­ney­land with Laura and the kids. I was stand­ing there in a queue for Dumbo and told Laura this was se­ri­ous, be­cause I knew St John­stone and oth­ers were back in pre-sea­son.

“I knew I should have been in some­where. But the phone stops ring­ing and it is tough. So it is great hav­ing the se­cu­rity of a new two year deal here.

“Af­ter that ex­pe­ri­ence, I ap­pre­ci­ate how lucky I am to be play­ing full-time foot­ball at a good level with a good club.”

Craig bagged an ex­tended con­tract on the back of a dou­ble in the re­cent 2-1 win over Mother­well. He added: “On the bus to the game the chair­man said he’d meet me about a new deal so it was a good time to get two goals.

“I’m de­lighted to get it done. It’s nice the club have shown this com­mit­ment to me. I had a good time here be­fore I left for Hibs and I’ve en­joyed be­ing back. It has worked out well for me and I’m glad I still have some­thing to of­fer. I will be 32 when this con­tract ends but I will be look­ing to stay even longer. I be­lieve I have got stronger and stronger as the sea­son has gone on and hope­fully we can go from strength to strength again.

“I think I’ve played ev­ery game I have been avail­able for, whether it’s start­ing or com­ing off the bench. Top six is pretty much se­cure and hope­fully we will have a Euro­pean trip or two to look for­ward to at the end of the sea­son.

“The core of the squad has stayed to­gether here. We have a few play­ers who are rack­ing up the years with the club and that has been cru­cial to our suc­cess. It’s not easy to be in the top six and challenging for Europe ev­ery year. This club has done it for the last six years now and I think the only other club to do that has been Celtic.”

WHAT A FEEL­ING: Liam Craig is de­lighted with his new deal at St John­stone

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