I was disappointed for St Johnstone at their exit from the Europa League last night but not for Scottish football, or our coefficient points. Saints are a provincial club in a very rural part of Scotland. You only have to travel through the hills to Perth to realise that pocket of Scotland, with its tractors, knitwear and wellie boot shops, has no God given right to beat a team from any municipality anywhere.
They have done very well for the last couple of seasons, from a tiny catchment area, but managed to reach Europe by pipping Dundee United, who ironically were good enough to have key players poached midseason.
St Johnstone don’t have potential superstars, they are also the oldest team in the league, which gets you through a long campaign but they are never going to sparkle. Or earn Scottish football a hatful of coefficient points.
Dundee United were decimated by the loss of those two players midseason, and were done no favours with the shadow of uncertainty which enveloped backroom and boardroom for months, but they, Aberdeen and Celtic are the only Scottish clubs capable of getting their act together to the extent required to reach European group stages. For everyone else, Europe is strictly a July pursuit, so don’t stress about it, and Tommy Wright is well within his rights to talk up his own club.
If Scottish football wants to get all introspective about last night, we should concern ourselves with concentrating resources on clubs who are independently financially viable: Dundee United, Aberdeen, Hearts, Celtic, Hibs and maybe Dundee. If more of our sponsorship and TV money went to Aberdeen and United and less to the thirty-or-so hangers on, they would be better placed to consolidate their development work and compete in Europe.
Celtic are five days away from their opening competitive game of the season, so I would think tonight’s friendly against Davie Moyes’ Real Sociedad will be the last strenuous exercise the players go through after what will have been a taxing first few weeks of preseason. After this workout it should all be about recovery before the visit of Stjarnan on Wednesday. The usual caveats apply to Nadir Ciftci, if he looks like he couldn’t run upstairs, he’s about where I’d expect him to be right now.