Wright in race to find striker to play Europa League

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ST JOHNSTONE manager Tommy Wright has expressed his dismay at the prospect of having to find a new striker in time for the Perth club’s Europa League second qualifying round tie against either Crusaders or Rosenborg next month.

On the day Saints learned they will travel to either Northern Ireland or Norway for the first leg of their European assignment on 18 July, with the return at McDiarmid Park a week later, it also emerged that forward Gregory Tade is poised to leave them and join Romanian side CFR Cluj.

Wright claims that Tade, who scored St Johnstone’s goal whey they lost 3-1 on aggregate to Turkish side Eskisehirspor at the same stage of the Europa League last year, had previously indicated he would be accepting the one-year extension option on his contract to remain with the club.

“If he does go it will be disappointing because he told us he would be re-signing,” said Wright. “We were waiting for him to come in last week and sign his contract and he didn’t do it.

“We didn’t think we needed a striker but at this stage in the summer we now find we may have to go out and find one. We’ll deal with that, but we were told he was going to take up the option and to learn that might not be the case at this late stage is disappointing.”

Wright, who succeeded Steve Lomas as St Johnstone manager earlier this month after two years as his assistant, will at 
least have the chance to closely assess his potential European 
opponents.

Crusaders, who finished runners-up to Cliftonville in the Irish League last season, will be familiar already to former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Wright. But the Belfast club, who have veteran Scottish striker Gary McCutcheon on their books, will be the firm underdogs in their first qualifying round meeting with former Champions League quarter-
finalists Rosenborg.

The clubs met at the same stage of the Europa League a year ago, Rosenborg winning 4-0 on aggregate. Norway’s most successful club, they have slipped a little in recent years after long being regarded as part of the furniture in the group stages of the Champions League.

They have not won the Norwegian title since 2010 and had to be content with a third-place finish last year. This season, under new coach Per Joar Hansen, they are currently second in the table, just two points off the pace being set by Stromsgodset.