St Johnstone captain Jason Kerr on the Rangers factor that fuels belief for Europa League tie

It is being presented as if St Johnstone’s knees should be knocking at the prospect of facing Turkish grandees Galatasary in the Europa League.

St Johnstone's Jason Kerr says his team are ready to "take the next step" and get a result in the Europa League against Galatasaray to build on their historic cup double of last season. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

Instead, the Perth club’s captain Jason Kerr instead on how Scottish opposition provided a knock-out blow for a glamour name of the European game last season as he gears up for the Istanbul assignment in 35 degree heat awaiting his team in the third round qualifying opening leg.

A first sortie for the McDiarmid Park side in four years is reward for Scottish Cup exploits that delivered a fantastical trophy double. Success in the competition followed a quarter-final triumph over Rangers that witnessed Callum Davidson’s men become the only domestic opponent to win at Ibrox – the same venue at which Galatasaray were vanquished in a one-off Europa League play-off by the home side.

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“Rangers are a top side and they showed that last season, winning the title without losing a game in the league,” Kerr said. “Galatasaray are obviously a top side but if Rangers can beat them then why can’t we? We gave Rangers a lot of problems last season [drawing with them in the league the week] we put them out of the Scottish Cup before going on to win it. So if Rangers can cause Galatasaray problems then I’m sure we can cause them problems too. If we don’t believe we can go there and cause them problems then we’d be as well staying at home. We think we’ve got a top side here and can really muster something up to give them a good test.

“It’s going to be really difficult, especially in the heat because we haven’t played in it before and they have. So we will have to adapt our gameplan, we can’t be as high-intensity as we would be back home. So we will need to adapt to the conditions and find a way to stay in the tie for the return leg. If we can do that, we will give ourselves a chance to get into the next round. It would be amazing if we can keep it alive and get a big crowd back at Perth for the second leg. But the main thing is this week, it’s a hard place to get a result but we feel that this team are capable of that. Leading the boys out in a Scottish Cup final has been the pinnacle of my career so far. But playing Galatasaray will be right up there and if we can get a result it could top everything. We feel the next step is to do well in Europe and that we can.”

Kerr was among a raft of players – Jamie McCart and Shaun Rooney others – St Johnstone fans feared would be enticed away before the Europa League rolled around owing to their contributions to, arguably, the greatest feat by a Scottish provincial club. Yet the 24-year-old centre-back maintains his “head is fully focused on this season and on St Johnstone”. “It always has been even when there was interest,” he said. “It’s a really exciting time to be involved with St Johnstone, so that’s where all my focus is. There has been interest in numerous players but that just shows how well we did last season and it’s flattering.”

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