TOMMY Wright has looked back on some of the post-match interviews from Thursday night and the St Johnstone manager confesses he was a bit surprised to see his emotions so transparently on display.
“I’m usually very good at staying calm. I think it’s important to make sure that you don’t get too high when you win and, even more importantly, you don’t get too low when you get defeats because, as a manager, you know you can’t win every game.
“But, when I looked back on all those interviews, I can’t keep the grin off my face.”
He can definitely be excused. That night he and his players ensured they would be written into the club’s history books, their memorable win up there with the European feats of the 1970-71 side. The 2-1 aggregate win over Rosenborg also lined up a trip to Belarus as they try to edge closer to the group stage of the Europa League.
If Wright and his players enjoyed their success on Thursday, they have already had to put it behind them, the fast-paced nature of the qualifying process affording them little time to bask in the glory. Instead, they have to prepare for a step into the unknown, aware that the stealthy approach is no longer an option.
“I don’t think there’s any chance of us slipping under the radar now. People know we beat Rosenborg and [FC] Minsk might even be thinking of themselves as the underdogs now, but we can’t worry too much about what they are thinking.
“We have to make sure we prepare as well as we can but it won’t be that easy. Because of the problem of getting visas etc we won’t be able to watch them before Thursday but we are hoping to get some DVDS and some info on them.”
That has been promised by Englishman Mark Miller, manager of Valletta, the Maltese side Minsk defeated in the previous round. “Hopefully, we can use them to work out where their weaknesses are but we won’t overload our players, we have to make sure we go there and concentrate on what we do well and do what we have to do.”
The expectation levels have been ramped up after the quashing of the Norwegian side and Wright agrees that on paper this tie is an easier proposition but he says they are the heroes of their own cautionary tale. “By beating Rosenborg, we proved that anyone can beat anyone in a football game, if you approach it properly and things go your way.”
Given the tempo of the first game, in Norway, Wright firmly believes that he and his players were underestimated by their loftier opponents and by the time they tried to come back at them, in the second leg, at McDiarmid Park, the home side had the bit between their teeth.
“It was a terrific team performance and it was an example of what the club is about, from the days with Owen [Coyle] and Derek [McInnes], and then Steve [Lomas] and myself it has been about a good work ethic and the boys all buy into that and they got the rewards for that on Thursday. But we have to show that work ethic again in Minsk.”
The trip to Belarus has already thrown up more than the normal logistical problems.
Aside from the visas, the game has also been moved to a ground in Grodno, a city four hours from Minsk, close to the country’s borders with Lithuania and Poland, and with only seven days between games, there has been no time to waste.
“It will be difficult but we will shield the players from all that,” says Wright. “They just need to get on the plane we charter and get off at the other end and play football. That’s all they need to do.”