FOR a man who has gathered many an admirer while becoming a frequent fixture in St Johnstone’s midfield, there is still the sense Ali McCann is one of Scotland’s best kept secrets.
The Northern Irishman has been one of the standouts of the campaign, bringing control, energy, and style to complement perfectly the robustness of Murray Davidson.
It is little wonder some have drawn parallels between McCann and Rangers’ Steven Davis – who is anything but a secret – and there is a lot more to it than just their shared nationality.
Steven Davis has more than 120 caps for his country
The pair will go head-to-head at Ibrox on Wednesday and the Saints player will be the first to say he would love to go on and have even a fraction of the career the Rangers veteran has enjoyed.
“He has been brilliant,” said McCann, who joined Davis for international duty last year.
“He is great in all of the camps with everyone, particularly the younger players.
“You just look at his day-to-day conduct, which is brilliant. By that I mean how he is in training every day and how he is around the camps. He is the ultimate professional.
“If you can take any tips off him, then you will stand yourself in good stead going forward as a footballer.
“He is huge for Rangers. I have only seen a couple of their other games but from the matches against us you can see how he builds the play.
“I’m sure when we go up against them we will be pin-pointing that to try and stop their play. Hopefully we will also show a positive mindset to go and get something.”
Davis is not alone in spearheading Rangers’ success this season, of course, and McCann knows as well as anyone the likes of Glen Kamara and Jo Aribo could prove just as daunting a prospect. Not that anything fazes the 21-year-old.
“They are a strong team all over the pitch so we need to be at it from the start in every area,” he said. “At places like Ibrox you need everyone to be on it to get a result. But we can go there with confidence after this result [Saturday’s 3-2 win over Kilmarnock] in particular.
“It is going to be tough for us because everyone knows they have been flying and are top of the league by some distance.
“We need to go there, be confident and hopefully we can get something from the game.”
If McCann needed any encouragement, it will surely help that he will head into the clash on a high, having scored the pick of the bunch in St Johnstone’s win at Rugby Park. The visitors had found themselves two goals down at half time before Guy Melamed, Davidson, and McCann, with a strike from outside the box, made it six league games without defeat by completing a stunning comeback.
Ali McCann challenges Clevid Dikamona during his side’s 3-2 win on Saturday
“It was a weird one because, despite the scoreline, I actually thought we played quite well in the first half,” he said. “We made a few chances and didn’t take them. But they were poor goals on our part to concede.
“It just shows the character we have to come back and dominate the second half completely. We deserved the win in the end.
“Basically, the message at half time was to not panic because we were getting openings.
“We felt if we could get one goal, we could go on and get more and get the result, which is how it turned out. It was about more of the same.”
When asked about his goal, he said: “It’s not like me, is it? I need to add some more goals to my game so hopefully I can kick-start things from here.”