SPL preview: St Johnstone
Manager Lomas remoulding Perth side to telling effect with recruitment of exciting striking duo.
FRAZER Wright believes that slowly but surely St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas is putting his own imprint on the Perth squad.
The former Kilmarnock defender is also convinced that two Europa League qualifiers with Turkish side Eskisehirspor will stand Saints in good stead as they count down to the SPL campaign, beginning with a trip to face Hearts in the capital on Saturday.
With Rangers absent from the top flight, Wright accepts that another top six finish has to be the target at McDiarmid Park and a return to Europe is also being factored into the equation.
He said: “We may have lost over the two legs but the games against Eskisehirspor have given me a taste of it. That was my first time and I want more.
“We can take confidence from our Europa League displays and we maintained the club’s record of never losing a home game in Europe. We need to exploit this competitive edge for the Hearts game now. You just don’t get that from pre-season games. Hopefully it gives us a wee edge.
“Motherwell had it a few seasons back and carried it on into the league and we want to do the same. I definitely feel fitter than I would normally at this stage.”
Lomas took over from Derek McInnes, who brought his Bristol City side to Perth yesterday for a pre-season friendly, and Wright said: “He is trying to get us to bring the ball out from the back a bit more.”
While the Perth manager maintains that he still requires “four or five more players” after a summer turnaround in personnel, Wright has been impressed with the new recruits.
Midfield anchor man Paddy Cregg, brought north from Bury, has SPL experience with Falkirk, Hibs and St Mirren and impressed against the Turks. Full-backs Gary Miller and Tam Scobbie came in from Ross County and Falkirk respectively, while keeper Jonathan Tuffey will compete with Alan Mannus for the No.1 jersey.
But it is up front that Wright believes Saints will prove a handful, despite the loss of Spanish talisman Fran Sandaza.
Frenchman Gregory Tade, recruited from Inverness, scored in a 1-1 debut against Eskisehirspor on Thursday while former St Mirren winger Nigel Hasselbaink lit up McDiarmid Park with his dribbling and direct play.
Wright remarked: “With Gregory you just open the gates and let the big man run. And I used to hate playing against Nigel. He is a strong, wee, tricky player.
“Gregory is unpredictable but he works so hard. He smashed the Turkish centre-half this week and the big lad’s legs just went up in the air.
“I played against him but always had him in my pocket! Seriously, he has pace and he can get in behind defences. And we can put it into corners knowing he will chase it.”
Wright also believes Perth fans can play a crucial role in chasing a return ticket to Europe, after more than 6,000 turned out to cheer them on against the Turkish Super Lig side.
“It was good to see the fans turn out for the European game and hopefully they liked what they saw and they will come back for the SPL games,” he said.
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