Ali Crawford: Hamilton aim to keep star man until the summer
Hamilton Accies manager Martin Canning is braced for the departure of star player Ali Crawford but hopes it won't come before the end of the season.
Crawford has scored seven of his side's 18 league goals this term, including three goals in his last four matches.
"He is such an important player for us," Canning told BBC Scotland.
But the manager acknowledges he could lose the midfielder in the January transfer window "if the right thing comes up for Ali and for the club".
After scoring the opener in Saturday's draw at Inverness, 25-year-old Crawford spoke of his belief that he had earned a move and Canning agrees.
"The size of club we are, if someone comes through the academy and does well for us and gets the opportunity to move onto a level that we can't say no to the kid for, that's just part of football," he continued.
"But if we can keep him in January and he moves in the summer it would be great for him and if the club can bring another kid through the academy and put him in the first team and to a higher level, it would be good for the club as well."
Inevitably, any talented youngster coming through Accies' academy draws comparisons with its most successful graduates - James McCarthy and James McArthur.
Canning played with both and believes Crawford is capable of scaling similar heights to the pair who are now established English Premier League players.
"At any moment in any game he can either find a pass or a strike, a free kick or delivery from a set-piece that can change or win a game, so he's definitely got all the attributes you'd need to play at a higher level," said Canning.
Crawford will certainly be around for the next three weeks, during which time Accies play Celtic twice, host Rangers and visit Aberdeen before a home derby against Motherwell on New Year's Eve.
Accies go into that tricky sequence of games in eighth place, two points behind sixth place Kilmarnock and two points ahead of the bottom side Partick Thistle.
Canning admits he would be content to be in a similar position going into the Hogmanay fixture.
"I think that's what I'd expect to happen given the fact it's not only us who have a difficult run of fixtures," he said. "It's a case of trying to pick up points where you can.
"We've beaten Aberdeen here - a game not many people would have thought we'd have won. We're capable of picking up points in these difficult games."
But the manager says he hasn't set his players any specific points targets before the winter break.
"It's something we don't do," he explained. "I think we've just got to take every game as it comes and work as hard as we can over the 90 minutes.
"It's a difficult run but we've all got to play these teams. For us it's about making sure we go and compete in every game."