Euro group stages ‘would surpass Saints cup win’

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St JOHNSTONE striker Steven MacLean claims qualifying for the Europa League group stages would be a bigger achievement than the club’s only major 
trophy win.

Saints ended a 130-year wait for significant silverware when they lifted the 2014 William Hill Scottish Cup. But MacLean says that feat will be overtaken if Tommy Wright’s side are finally able to fight through the Europa League qualifiers after three failed attempts in the last three seasons.

Steven MacLean: Homework. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Steven MacLean: Homework. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

They kick off this year’s campaign today after travelling more than 3,000 miles to Armenia to face FC Alashkert but even if they progress following next week’s second leg, they still face three further ties before they can make the money-spinning group stage.

MacLean – who scored in Saints’ historic cup triumph over Dundee United last year – said: “The group stages are four rounds away. We’ve got eight games to play before we can even think about that.

“But if we can make it that far it would be better than winning the Scottish Cup if I’m being honest. It would be a bigger achievement.

“But as a squad we’re not looking that far ahead. We’re just taking it one game at a time. If we can take care of this team then we will look to the next game. After that, you never know.”

Boss Wright has only been able to track down video footage of Alashkert from last season but expects them to line up differently at the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium in Yerevan after making seven summer signings.

Just like the Perth men, Alashkert qualified for Europe after finishing fourth in their domestic league. They scored just 32 goals from 28 games, while shipping 35 at the other end and from the little he has seen, 
MacLean thinks that they are Armenia’s equivalent of his own side.

“It’s a bit of a step into the unknown,” he admitted. “We’ve watched a bit of them on DVD and it’s hard to judge what kind of standard they are.

“We’ve done our homework and we’re looking forward to it.

“They are probably quite like ourselves in the respect they don’t score many – but then don’t concede many either.

“We’ve played in big games before and are experienced enough to be able to handle it.”