Saint Johnstone FC manager Tommy Wright hopes the prospect of European football will help him attract more quality players to the Perth club after leading them to their first major trophy in 130 years.
Saturday's 2-0 Scottish Cup final victory over Dundee United FC means the Saints will enter next season's UEFA Europa League in the second qualifying round, and having knocked out Norwegian side Rosenborg BK before losing to FC Minsk on penalties in the third round of this term's qualifiers, Wright is targeting the group stage.
"Qualifying for the Europa League group stages would be some achievement," said Wright as he reflected on his historic first campaign in charge at McDiarmid Park. "We would probably need a first-team squad of 24 players, but if we were to qualify the finances might allow us to do that. That will be our first target when we come back – to do well in Europe again."
It has been a memorable season for ex-Northern Ireland goalkeeper Wright, who listed Manchester City FC and Newcastle United FC among his former clubs. Previously assistant to Steve Lomas, instead of following his countryman to Millwall FC last July, the 50-year-old took up chairman Steve Brown's challenge of earning a top-six league finish and a first-ever cup. The latter ambition might have looked a long shot, but Wright reckons UEFA Europa League football inspired his team – sixth in the 2013/14 Premiership.
"Those games in the Europa League against Rosenborg and Minsk gave us the belief we could achieve something this season," Wright told UEFA.com in the build-up to Saturday's Glasgow final. "We said after the European games we would be a hard team to beat. I felt we had the potential to be a good side and that this could turn out to be our year."
Over 25,000 supporters packed the streets of the 'Fair City' on Sunday to celebrate the end of the club's 130-year trophy wait, an achievement which prompted Brown to declare his manager as "the best ever in our history". With a year left on his contract urgent talks are already under way over a new deal, and having accomplished one fairy tale, Wright is now reaching for the stars and daring to dream of another.
"Is it unrealistic to expect us to make it to the group stage?" he mused. "It's tough for Scottish football to break through. Even for [Celtic FC manager] Neil Lennon it's tough to attract the quality of players and he wants to progress Celtic in the Champions League, but I want to see all Scottish clubs do well in Europe. It helps our coefficient and that in turn can only help our clubs get better draws."
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