European disappointment shows how far St Johnstone have come, says Liam Craig

IT was ultimately disappointment for St Johnstone on Thursday night as they crashed out of the Europa Conference League at the hands of Austrian outfit LASK. 

But for Perth midfielder Liam Craig the feeling of frustration goes to show how far the McDiarmid Park side have come. 

A place in the group stages were up for grabs but Saints were ultimately undone by an experienced European side who were capable of taking their chances. 

Craig was a second half substitute as his team battled with nine men in the dying stages, and he believes Saints can still take great pride from their performances in Europe this term. 

He explained: “It was 2007 when I first came here in the old first division. Where this club has come from in the last decade is incredible and that’s what gives me a lot of belief that we can come back here and compete again. 

“We have to find the consistency and performance level to give us the opportunity to do this again. We have shown over the four games in Europe – okay we came up short – but in terms of performances we have been a match for two top teams. 

“The difference in this club since I arrived is massive. A lot of people have to take a lot of credit for that. Derek McInnes right up to what Callum has done. We have stabilised ourselves in this league.  

“We’re not here through luck – we have earned this over a long period of time and it doesn’t matter how old you are you need to realise what this club is about. We have had a lot of nights like this and we want more.” 

McDiarmid Park was once again close to sell out for the LASK match and home supporters created a special atmosphere throughout the 90 minutes. 

Craig hopes the occasion will have captured the imagination of a few fans to ensure full houses are a regular occurrence in Perth. 

He continued: “It’s great for the younger ones to see this place full. You can see what kind of backing the club can get. That’s off the back of last year as well. Top players do it season in and season out.  

“To be fair to the supporters they are a loyal group. They have backed us even in difficult times. But as players if you come out and three or four stands are full it does give you extra energy to go and do well.

“Hopefully they can see what the team is about and what we are trying to do and they want to be involved in the success as well. They missed out on a lot last year and it’s up to us as players now to put performances on the park to make sure they keep coming back.

“Some players might move on but the good thing is we’ve always had a great dressing room. Moving forward it’s going to take that, take the full squad to buy into what we’re about, to get back to nights like Thursday.”

Saints will look to bounce back from their European heartache when they head to Paisley on Sunday to take on St Mirren in the Scottish Premiership. 

Callum Davidson’s team are still without a win since their Scottish Cup heroics last term, but Craig is confident that results will begin to turn. 

He added: “We know how big an opportunity this was, to be in the play-offs and to get a draw away from home gave us a real belief. 

“That’s where the frustration comes from because we more than matched them last week and had a great opportunity to go 2-0 up. We knew we’d get chances in the game, unfortunately just not as clear cut as last week. 

“We want to learn from those moments, get back on this stage and there’s definitely enough quality in that dressing room to have another successful season. 

“We have to use the disappointment as fuel to go again. We’ve not started the league as well as we’d have hoped so now that’s the focus. It’s a great dressing room.  

“We didn’t have a great start to the season last year but that worked out not too bad. That’s the levels we want to get back to – so we can have more nights like tonight. 

“We want to put on performances to make the supporters come back. They have been excellent. At the end they showed how much this team means to them.” 

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992