By IAIN COLLIN – Capital City Press
ST JOHNSTONE will aim to scale the heights in Europe again this summer – but Murray Davidson admits it is the ‘horrible’ lows they are desperate to avoid repeating.
The Perth outfit will be back in continental action early next month after becoming the first team from outside the Old Firm, since Aberdeen in 1992, to qualify for Europe for four successive seasons.
The McDiarmid Park men face an early start, entering the Europa League at the first qualifying round on July 2, and will find out the identity of their opponents on June 22.
Being seeded, Tommy Wright’s side will avoid the likes of West Ham United, Croatians Hadjuk Split and recent opponents Rosenborg and Spartak Trnava, and are more likely to be heading to Scandinavia, Ireland or the Baltic states.
And, after following up last season’s dramatic penalty-kicks win over Swiss cracks Luzern with a frustrating loss to Trnava and the previous year’s stunning success against Rosenborg with defeat to FC Minsk, Davidson insists Saints are determined to do themselves justice this year.
He said: “We have had a few massive results for the club, beating Rosenborg and Luzern are the two the lads are very proud of.
“That gave the supporters great experiences and I’d like to think it did a bit for Scottish football as well.
“But there was a bit of frustration afterwards, being knocked out by two clubs we probably should have beaten.
“Everyone had heard of Rosenborg, for example, but nobody had heard of the other two. On paper those were the easier games but you don’t get bad teams in Europe.
“But after you have beaten a big club like Rosenborg you really want to build on it.
“So, this time round hopefully we can get a good draw in the first round and then take it from there.
“You don’t want to be going out of any competition and thinking ‘if we played to our maximum we’d have beaten them’, because that’s a horrible feeling.
“That’s the same in any competition you enter and European football is exactly the same.”
Injury has blighted Davidson’s career of late and ruled him out of the historic Scottish Cup win over Dundee United last year and the European games that success earned.
However, the 27-year-old is desperate to hit the ground running this summer after feeling he had returned to his best in time to help Saints finish fourth to qualify for Europe thanks to Inverness Caley Thistle’s Scottish Cup triumph.
Speaking as he helped to launch the club’s new strip and innovative sponsorship with Invest In Perth, the Scotland cap added: “The summer break seems to get shorter every year and with being in Europe that means it’s an even shorter break. We’ve had just over three weeks off but the lads are looking forward to getting back in now.
“We start again next week and it’s about building up to the European game on July 2. It’s a great thing for the club, it is an incredible achievement when you look at the budget and the size of the club.
“All the talk in Scotland is about other clubs and we get ignored. But that suits us fine, we thrive on it as a club and we like proving people wrong.”