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Croft eager to ply his craft in Europe after watching brief

LEE Croft flirted with UEFA Cup action as a teenager at Manchester City, and he missed out on playing in Europe for St Johnstone after heading back to Derby County at the conclusion of a successful loan spell.

So the midfielder is eager to sample continental fare tomorrow as St Johnstone face up to Swiss outfit Luzern in the Europa League first-leg qualifier.

Croft, 29, recalled: "I left at the end of the season when we qualified for Europe the first time and played Turkish team Eskisehirspor.

"I'd been here on loan but went back south and we needed the result of the Scottish Cup final to go our way. It did and they ended up in Turkey. But I didn't come back so missed that game. And last season I didn't have a club when they were in Europe, so I'm going to get a crack at it on the third time of asking.

"I was involved with Man City when we played Welsh side TNS about 10 years ago but I've not played in Europe since then. Europe's a great thing for a club like this and was a bonus on top of winning the cup. As players you want to be playing in these games and testing yourself against foreign opposition."

Croft, who considers the Scottish Cup final win over Dundee United in May to be a career high, kept an eye on St Johnstone's progress on foreign fields last year. "I remember looking out for the results in Europe last season and Stevie May scored against Rosenborg. It was brilliant for the club and the lads have all told me they should have gone through against Minsk but lost on penalties," he said.

"It was good to win away in Norway so there will be expectation on us this year. That's something we'll have to cope with, not just in Europe, because of what we did last year.

"You have to aim to keep moving forward. Obviously, it would be a massive achievement to get through to the group stages. But that's miles in the future. We just want to go across there, get a good result and come back to Perth with plenty to play for. I think we're taking about 1000 fans, which is a great travelling support and hopefully we'll make them enjoy their trip."

Tommy Wright, the manager, confirmed that defender Steven Anderson and midfielder Gary McDonald will not travel after picking up knocks in pre-season. But Croft, who was with Oldham before returning to McDiarmid, said the players had been well briefed.

"We've watched some videos of Luzern and they look a really good side. It's going to be tough but I'm sure they'll think that about us as well," said the striker. "They're a good attacking side but we're in good shape so, hopefully, we'll be able to nick something across there."

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