ST JOHNSTONE manager Tommy Wright has denied claims made by John Collins that Celtic are being held back in Europe by the performances of the other Scottish clubs.
However, he has called on the SPFL to give more help to Scotland’s European participants by finishing the season earlier to give teams more time to prepare.
Tonight the Perth club will attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit against Armenian side Alashkert to reach the second qualifying round of the Europa League where, in all likelihood, they will face Kairat Almaty from Kazakhstan. It is a fourth consecutive season in Europe for Saints, who have achieved some notable results but have been unable to get beyond the qualifying stage, like every other club other than Celtic in the past five seasons.
Celtic assistant manager Collins argues that Celtic have been held back by the other Scottish clubs and the country coefficient – which dictates at what stage clubs join European competitions – should be replaced by a club one.
Wright disagrees and feels the governing body has to do more in terms of fixture scheduling to aid the competing teams.
“I think that’s unfair,” said Wright. “The coefficient is the same for everybody. Other teams could say they have been let down by Celtic – and Rangers when they’ve been in Europe.
“I look after my own club. I think we have done alright in terms of coefficient. We have won away and that gets you more [coefficient] points and we’ve drawn away with teams that are better.
“We’re a small club and it’s difficult to win games in Europe and that’s been the case. Everyone has to be together and there has to be help for the clubs in terms of preparation. We’ll get on with it and we won’t make complaints but where’s the help for Aberdeen and ourselves?
“The league season finished on the 24th of May and the Cup Final was the 31st so there was no consideration for the clubs playing in Europe. We’re all in it together so to point the finger at the smaller clubs I think is wrong because the so-called bigger clubs haven’t done enough to help the coefficient.”
Wright feels the SPFL has to be more considerate when arranging games and feels an earlier finish punctuated with more midweek matches in the warmer months would help.
He said: “I don’t know why the season was extended. The season before the league finished on the 10th of May and the Cup Final was the 17th.
“I think we should be looking to front-load the season with more midweek games and then have a winter break and play more midweek games at the end of the season when the weather is better.”
Saints should have enough in their locker to get past the Armenians tonight, even if injury victims Murray Davidson and Dave Mackay are missing.
The team played poorly last week and only lost 1-0 so Wright is confident his players will step up to the mark
He said: “Everyone will say how poor they are but they are a decent side and technically very good so they could hurt us.
“We can’t be over-cautious, we have to be on the front foot but make sure we don’t concede.”
New signing John Sutton, who has European experience with Motherwell and Hearts, would love to get the goals that take Saints through. He said: “Hopefully this time we can show a bit more intensity .”