BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
St Johnstone midfielder Chris Millar concedes the Perth side must take the rough with the smooth after being lambasted for their European exit at the hands of Armenian minnows Alashkert.
The Saints have been widely scolded for the defeat, which saw them eliminated on away goals against their 10-man visitors – with the result dubbed embarrassing in some quarters.
It is a bitter contrast to the nationwide plaudits they have received for their continental exploits in recent years, which have included wins against 22-time Norwegian champions Rosenborg and a triumph against Luzern of Switzerland.
Millar insists that, after lapping up the praise, they are big enough to handle the flak.
And the 32-year-old has assured supporters that there will be no Europa League hangover as their attention immediately returns to enjoying another successful domestic campaign.
He said: “It was really disappointing. We won’t try to paint over anything, we shouldn’t be going out to a team from Armenia – that’s the bottom line.
“We have to use the hurt and the criticism to drive us on. The boys in the dressing room are honest and we know it wasn’t good enough.
“We have taken the praise in the past when we have done well so we’ll take the criticism on the chin. But there won’t be any hangover, it is done and dusted and we are building towards the opening day against Hearts.”
To that end, Sunday’s 0-0 draw against David Moyes’ Real Sociedad must be considered a satisfying exercise, with the ‘hosts’ at Bayview enjoying the better of a competitive contest.
The encounter was also notable for Liam Craig’s first outing in a St Johnstone shirt in two years, lining up in midfield alongside fellow trialist Rhys McCabe.
Both players showed up well against their La Liga counterparts, with Craig a particular standout as he played the full match and contributed to the Saints’ two best chances.
While acutely aware of budget constraints, Millar has no doubt that both players would be worthy additions to Tommy Wright’s ranks.
He continued: “The gaffer [Tommy Wright] knows all about Liam Craig, he doesn’t need me to tell him what a good player he is. Liam’s not a shy boy! He comes in and he talks away – I’ve known him for a number of years and his return has been seamless.
“I met Rhys when I went down to see Stevie May at Sheffield Wednesday and he is a great lad and very comfortable on the ball. I don’t know what will happen, but either player – or both, if it stretches to that – would be great additions.”
Millar’s hour-long outing against Real Sociedad – his first appearance of pre-season – represents a massive boost for Tommy Wright, who has found himself managing an injury-ravaged squad in the opening weeks of the season.
He added: “It’s really good to be back. You can only do so much training, you need to test it in a game and I felt great. The injury is always in the back of your mind when you are chasing defenders and things, but I’m delighted to get 60 minutes under my belt.”