TOMMY Wright flung classy kid Ali McCann into a crushing opening day defeat at Celtic Park.

It was shaping-up as sink or swim for the Perth starlet. And after his composed 45-minute cameo in a 7-0 savaging, McCann has emerged as one of the finds of the season.

He bagged a three-and-a-half year deal last month and netted his second goal of the season in the 2-1 weekend win over Kilmarnock, which marked his 25th appearance.

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Wright, who will trust McCann against Celtic tomorrow, reckons it was a great piece of business nailing down the 20-year-old playmaker.

But he’s already braced for interest from bigger clubs.

“Ali is getting better and better,” said Wright, who is hoping Saints can thrash out a deal to bring in Inverness Caley Thistle defender Jamie McCart now rather than wait until the summer.

“I am pleased the club have got Ali on a longer-term contract because in the next window I am expecting there will be a lot of interest in him and people knocking on our door.

“You never really know how far a young player can go but in terms of the modern midfielder Ali has all the qualities required.

“He will become stronger in the upper body because he is still a young man but he has a great engine, he can play any role in the middle of the park and has a good range of passing.

“Ali is tenacious and has really good attributes. In a strange sort of way it was the Celtic game at the start of the season where he got his chance.

“We were getting battered. I told him at half-time the game had basically gone. We were down 3-0 when I put him on. I said he should just go out and stamp his authority on it.

“I already knew I had a player on my hands. It was whether he could do it against good opposition. He was excellent that day at Celtic Park.

“He saw it as an opportunity and that tells you the type of character he is. Ali stayed in the team the next week against Livingston.

“He has been a big plus for us. I doubt he will see out the full length of his new contract.”

Wright suspects Scotland will regret passing up on McCann after Michael O’Neill snapped him up for Northern Ireland.

“He has made the U21 set-up and I know Michael likes him. He is Northern Ireland’s gain and Scotland’s loss,” said Wright. "I wouldn’t encourage him to switch allegiance.

“The type of boy Ali is, I think he is delighted to have the opportunity with Northern Ireland and I think that’s where he will stay.

“He has trained when the U21s and the full team have been together. I know the staff have been very impressed with him.

“They think he can go a long way.”

Wright will be without Celtic loan star Anthony Ralston against the Hoops.

And a hamstring injury looks set to rule out wide man Drey Wright. Murray Davidson is sidelined by a broken arm.

But Wright is hoping winger Michael O’Halloran will make it after missing the win over Kille.

“It was an important win, particularly after being unfortunate to lose at Livingston when decisions didn’t go for us,” he said.

“I was pleased with the effort and the commitment of the players. And the quality was there at times.

“It was good to see the 3-5-2 system worked for us. We did a bit of work on it during the summer.

“And it had looked promising when we were chasing the game against Livingston, allowing us to get two up top.

“It was particularly important to go into the Celtic game with a win under our belts.

“The players kept going and kept prodding. They got their just rewards in the end.

“I was pleased for David Wotherspoon. Like a couple of players he has his critics but you don’t play more than 250 games for the club without being a really good player.

“His technique for the winning goal was excellent.”