TOMMY Wright recalls an era when Scottish clubs went into European ties as odds-on favourites. But the new St Johnstone manager admits the Perth side will have to buck the odds to progress in the Europa League against Norwegian outfit Rosenborg.
The Trondheim team’s worst ever Euro result came in a 1974 clash with Hibs, when they were thrashed 9-1. But Norway’s most successful club side has been transformed since the seventies, making an impact in the Champions League and Europa League along the way.
They crushed Irish part-timers Crusaders 7-2 last week to clock up a 9-3 aggregate win.
Wright, who takes charge of his first competitive game since succeeding Steve Lomas in the second-round first-leg qualifier in Norway on Thursday, is convinced that British football can learn from the Scandinavians, rather than follow football’s latest fads and fashions.
“I remember going to Rosenborg and Lillestrom with Linfield and they were semi-pro back then, but the club had organised jobs for the players and they trained every day,” said Wright, pictured.
“In the Scandinavian countries I don’t think they try to copy anywhere else. They operate within a framework which suits their climate and type of football they want to play.
“I hear people here saying we should copy the Spanish model but it won’t work. Look at the number of hours kids play on grass in Spain, the culture is different.
“British football has overlooked the young players, they haven’t been getting enough opportunities and it is too easy to go and buy foreign players because of the pressure to win. I think that has stopped the development of British football.
“I also think the model should be about what is best for us and we should stick with it.”
Wright admits it would raise eyebrows if Saints do progress at the expense of Rosenborg. But he is adamant that they can do Scotland proud.
“I watched the first game against Crusaders and then Lillestrom and while they got results they could have lost both games. In the league game the Rosenborg keeper was man of the match and they relied on a mistake for their 1-0 win.
“But they took care of Crusaders at home and they have a good record in Europe, including the Champions League. They’ve been the national champions 20-odd times and are probably the biggest club in the country with a good fan base and a budget of something like ¤18 million.
“Rosenborg are a good club with lots of European experience and I have seen enough to know they have quality and we will treat them with the utmost respect.
“But we can go into these games with a lot of confidence. We have to go into this tie believing we can win.
“They are half-way through their season and we will have had 180 minutes against Cowdenbeath and Morton but that won’t be mentioned in the dressing room. We have the players as fit as we can in the timeframe we allowed so it’s not a negative or an excuse.
“The players have to realise this isn’t just a reward for what they achieved last season.
“We have to be positive and take the attitude that we have earned the right to be here but we aren’t just making up the numbers.
“It would probably be a shock if we did go through but much bigger shocks have happened in football.”