Richard Tait may joke with Jamie McGrath he is the best player in the world but the St Mirren defender is deadly serious when he insists his fellow Buddie is destined for the top.
Transfer speculation is already heating up around Irishman McGrath following a sensational first year in Scotland.
The 24-year-old former Dundalk ace has contributed 15 goals for Jim Goodwin’s side despite operating from central midfield.
Those performances have quickly drawn admiring glances, with his boss admitting he has already fielded calls from clubs north and south of the border enquiring about McGrath’s availability.
But with his fellow Irishman still under contract for another year, Goodwin has told suitors – including new Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass – it will take an “outrageous” bid to tempt Saints into selling.
One way or another, though, former Motherwell full-back Tait fully expects McGrath to move to bigger and better things, just like former Fir Park team-mate David Turnbull, who joined Celtic in a £3million deal last summer.
“He’s a fantastic player,” said Tait. “I think everyone can see that.
“He’s scored quite a lot of goals this year but even forgetting about that, his overall play has been outstanding.
“I always joke with him that he’s the best player in the world. He doesn’t believe it when I say it but that’s what I believe.
“I think he’s been unbelievable. Having been at Motherwell with a player like David Turnbull who has gone on to play for Celtic, I can see no reason why Jamie McGrath can’t go do the same and play for a big side.
“He could just as easily go down to England and play for one of the big sides down there.
“I’m really looking forward to playing with Jamie as long as I can and also seeing what his career holds in the future.
“Aberdeen is a fantastic club and it would certainly be a good move for him.
“As much as I’d love him to be at St Mirren for as long as he can, I think he’s a fantastic player and other teams will see that.
“He could have a pick of a number of clubs to be honest with you.”
If McGrath does bow out this summer, he will hope to do so with a Scottish Cup winners’ medal in his pocket.
The Paisley men head to Hampden a week on Sunday to take on St Johnstone, where victory would leave the Buddies just 90 minutes away from qualifying for Europe for the first time since the club’s last Scottish Cup win in 1987.
Tait, speaking ahead of Saturday’s Premiership clash with Hamilton, said: “Playing in Europe was a bit of a long-shot at the beginning of the season but now it’s within touching distance.
“It would be massive for this football club and its fans, and a real reward for the supporters who haven’t been able to come watch us this season.
“If we could win the trophy and get into Europe, it would be a great way to say thank you to the fans.
“We have a real belief that this could be our year, but I’m pretty sure if you ask the other teams they’ll be saying the same as well.
“Obviously with the big Old Firm pair knocked out already, it’s a big opportunity for the teams left in to go win a trophy.
“But I’ve not really thought about the semi-final. We’ve got Hamilton this week and that will be a hard game as always. They are fighting for their lives. It will be a real tough game.”
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