Having won both domestic Cups last season, some people may have thought St Johnstone would have been happy to rest on their past glories.
But after their 1-1 draw away to Galatasaray in Thursday night’s Europa League qualifier, that’s clearly not the case.
Callum Davidson, his staff and their players are in the mood to push on and create more history and new stories in the season ahead.
To go 1-0 ahead through Jason Kerr’s penalty-kick had the makings of a fairytale evening, but the Turkish club quickly equalised.
However, the tie remains very much alive and let’s hope Saints get permission from Perth and Kinross Council to allow a large capacity inside McDiarmid Park on Thursday evening.
Perth St. Johnstone have drawn in Istanbul.
— St. Johnstone FC (@StJohnstone) August 5, 2021
Veteran Galatasaray coach, Fatih Terim, and his players probably thought they would cruise to a victory in the first leg. How wrong were they?
Once voted in the top 10 coaches in the world after taking Turkey to the Euro 2008 semis, Fatih is up against an opposite number in Callum who has already shown signs of being able to pull off something special.
Due to last season’s Cup successes and finishing in the top six, Callum has made a name for himself.
His stock will shoot to new levels if he pulls off the impossible in midweek.
This was his first European game as a manager but he handled it like a veteran.
He clearly is tactically astute, and has a skill in getting the very best out of his players. They give him every last drop in every game.
In an uncomfortable heat in Istanbul, the team kept going until the last minute. They defended heroically, and Zander Clark pulled off two outstanding saves.
Up front Chris Kane played his part and showed bravery and good decision-making in the incident that led to the penalty and the ordering-off of keeper and skipper, Fernando Musrela.
But as much as they have every right to enjoy that performance and result, the Saints must also be aware that it is only half-time.
Galatasaray were still impressive with 10 men, and popped the ball around well.
However, with the talent they have in the team – and with a team spirit that is abundantly clear – the Saints have a fine chance of producing another stunning result.
Last season showed they love playing cup ties, so this one-off 90 minutes against the Turks will suit them down to the ground.
At the moment, you’d have to say that Saints, Rangers, Hibs and Aberdeen all have European ties that are firmly in the balance.
The only club able to relax in midweek will be Celtic after their 4-2 win away to Jablonec. It was a much-needed first competitive win for Ange Postecoglou. He will have enjoyed seeing new signings, Liel Abada and Kyogo Furuhashi, on the scoresheet.
Joe Hart was between the sticks, and after the problems the club has been having with their last line of defence, his arrival will be so vital as the season progresses.
Carl Starfelt is also in there, and it’s about trying to find a defensive blend that works best as quickly as possible.
Rangers had that last season, and that foundation was what their success was built on.
But they conceded two goals away to Malmo, having been caught cold at the start of the second half.
They never gave up, however, and got a priceless goal through Steven Davis with the last kick of the game.
The Swedes are clearly an extremely competent team, and it will take a serious performance from Steven Gerrard’s men to progress in the Champions League.
Ibrox will be absolutely rocking on Tuesday, and it will be a game not to be missed.
I expect Steven and his players to progress – but it won’t be easy.
Aberdeen were away from home and their 3-2 win in Iceland against Breidablik sets them up nicely for the return.
Christian Ramirez was once again on the scoresheet, and he has settled in very quickly to life at the Dons. He looks like a real asset.
I fancy Aberdeen to go through, but it won’t be as straightforward for Hibs, who recovered well after going behind to HNK Rijeka.
They are leading the Croatian League, and that tells you all about the quality they possess.
Apart from St Johnstone, Hibs face the toughest test of the lot to get through in midweek, so I wish all five clubs the very best of luck.
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