Saints’ Liam Craig hopes it’s third time lucky in Europe

St Johnstone's Liam Craig wants to win in Europe, Picture: Sammy Turner/SNS
St Johnstone's Liam Craig wants to win in Europe, Picture: Sammy Turner/SNS
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Liam Craig is hoping it’s going to be third time lucky as he counts down to Thursday’s Europa League qualifier with FK Trakai.

The 30-year-old St Johnstone midfielder lost out to Turkish side Eskisehirspor in his first spell with the Perth club and would rather forget his Euro experience with Hibs. But Craig admits continental campaigns were far from his mind when he left Falkirk for McDiarmid Park as manager Derek McInnes was trying to engineer a route back to the top flight.

Craig recalled: “I have only been involved in four European matches with Hibs and St Johnstone. But we do have a lot of experience in the squad and I think that will help us.

“I only had two games with Hibs and the home fixture isn’t one I’d really want to remember. We lost 7-0 to Malmo at Easter Road. Every time we made a mistake, they seemed to punish us.

“I’ve been to European games at McDiarmid Park as a fan and I know what it’s like when you have the full backing of the crowd. My old man is going to Lithuania and he’s excited about that. All the fans are and hopefully we can give them another couple of trips.

“We have boys who have played a lot of European football and the likes of Paul Paton, who has been with Northern Ireland. We are in a good place and hopefully that experience helps us get through the first tie and we have more European away trips.

“The big disappointment from previous campaigns is that the club have had some big results then gone out to lesser teams. It’s important now that we go that step further. That’s not taking the opposition lightly but we are not here to make up the numbers anymore.

“In the first season, when we went to Eskisehirspor, it was a step into the unknown for the players and the club. Now we have been there and done that. It’s important we progress in the competition.

“Having the home game first on the grass is also a positive. There will be a big crowd there and we need to use that to our advantage.

“Hopefully we can go out and attack in the first leg. A clean sheet would be good and hopefully we can score at least one goal.

“If you look at their results at home, Trakai do well. They don’t score a lot but they don’t concede a lot either. They are similar to us in that respect.

“It’s a winnable game and we want to take a good result over there.

“It’s a long way to the start of the season if we get knocked out early but the boys are confident and excited. If we progress, whoever we get, they probably won’t be as good as Celtic were last season and we matched them on occasions for long spells. It will take those kind of performances if we are going to get through in Europe.”

Craig finds it hard to comprehend how far Saints have come since he arrived from Falkirk, initially on loan.

“The progress of the club since I first signed nine years ago is incredible,” he said.

“Derek McInnes brought me here and back then we trained down the Inch in Perth, a public park.

“Even simple things like the balls we were using weren’t the best. But the good thing though is that we still take nothing for granted.”

Former Hibs captain Craig insists Saints will be fully briefed by manager Tommy Wright after receiving a report from coach Alex Cleland, who is taking in Trakai’s cup match with Garliava today.

He said: “I remember their captain, Deividas Cesnauskis, at Hearts. That was a decent team and they had a lot of Lithuianians.

“If you are in Europe you will be decent and we have to make sure we are at it 100 per cent.”