ALI CRAWFORD didn't get the chance to do his talking on the pitch. Off it, some key conversations have helped him keep his career on track.

After falling out of favour at Bolton, the midfielder endured a tough time on loan at Tranmere. Now, he is back home and back in the groove after signing for St Johnstone.

Crawford earned his move across the border on the back of several impressive seasons with Hamilton Accies but his time in the English lower leagues - which started with a switch to Doncaster Rovers three seasons ago - was ultimately and unfortunately mixed.

It has proven to be a valuable learning curve for the 30-year-old, though, and he has returned to Scottish football older and wiser for the experience as he seeks to play his part for Callum Davidson's side this term.

His time on the fringes over recent months were difficult for Crawford to contemplate. He found that it was good to talk and he would open up on his struggles in the aftermath of a solid debut showing against Rangers.

“I’ve been fit for the last year," Crawford said after Davidson's side went down 2-1 to the champions at McDiarmid Park on Saturday. “Bolton had a tough start last season and I was kind of the fall guy at Christmas. I got shipped out to Tranmere on loan and that didn’t really work out.

“I just had to make sure I kept my head in a good place for my next opportunity. It was the first time in my career I’d gone through this and I did speak to somebody.

“John Johnstone is his name. He’s a mindset coach. I don’t think he played football at a high level but it’s an area he’s specialised in.

“To deal with it was new to me. It was good to get the benefit of the experience of somebody who works in that field.

“It’s helped make me ready to go when I’ve come here. When you’re not playing, you’re doubting yourself.

“You think it’s yourself who is the problem. If I did get a chance it was a case of being back out again.

“It’s much more common in the game now. People are coming out with mental health issues and stuff like that.

“It’s always good to get things off your chest and speak to somebody. It’s certainly helped me."

It is eleven years since Crawford made his breakthrough with Accies as he became the latest young talent to emerge through the academy system at New Douglas Park.

He is a proven operator at Premiership level and should prove to be a shrewd acquisition from Davidson as St Johnstone consolidate on the back of the greatest season in their history.

Time will tell what the Saints can achieve this term but Crawford is sure he can play his part now that he is back on more familiar ground until the turn of the year.

“It definitely helps being back in Scotland and I’ve joined a group of lads who have made me feel welcome straightaway," Crawford said. “They knew me and I knew them from playing against each other. It was important that I made the right move.

“I spoke to the manager a few days before I signed. He talked me through the way they play and how he saw me fitting into that. It sounded really good to me.

“I think I’ve still got a good five or six years left in me. The talent will always be there. It’s about me producing that week in, week out.

“It’s good to be home, so to speak. I’ve been down south for three or four years and this felt like the right time to come back up.

“I’ve done well in Scotland in the past and hopefully I can replicate that here.

“It’s been a tough six months for me. I’ve not really played much.

“It was great to be back on the pitch. Hopefully as my sharpness comes back I’ll be able to help St Johnstone more and more by creating and scoring goals.

“I’ve been keeping myself ticking over and waiting for an opportunity like this to come along."

Crawford found himself pitched in at the deep end on Saturday as St Johnstone faced a Rangers side that were still on a high after their Old Firm victory.

The midfielder famously scored at Ibrox as Accies spoiled Rangers' party on their return to the Premiership and earned a point against Mark Warburton's side.

The champions are, of course, a very different proposition today and Rangers took another small step towards the title as Kemar Roofe and James Tavernier netted in Perth.

Crawford said: “It was their first season back when I scored against them. They’ve had a few years to consolidate themselves and improve.

“I don’t think they were at their best. That was a lot to do with our hard work and not giving them many chances. But you can tell why they’re champions."