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Tommy Wright pragmatic and proud as St Johnstone plot Europa League course

Tommy Wright, the St Johnstone manager, has targeted a place in the Europa League group stage next season but said the club will not live beyond its means to chase success.

Manager Tommy Wright clutches the Scottish Cup after St Johnstone's 2-0 win over Dundee United at Celtic Park. Picture: Stewart Attwood
Manager Tommy Wright clutches the Scottish Cup after St Johnstone's 2-0 win over Dundee United at Celtic Park. Picture: Stewart Attwood

Winning the William Hill Scottish Cup - which was paraded through the streets of Perth yesterday - placed St Johnstone in the second qualifying round of the Europa League. They will play their first game on July 17. Last summer they defeated Rosenborg before going out to FC Minsk, falling short of a place in the group stage which can be worth £2m or more.

Wright believes going much further in Europe could be a mixed blessing because of how much it would cost to deepen his squad for a campaign on three domestic fronts as well as the Europa League, yet the money they could make would transform the club.

"To get to the group stage: that would be something," said Wright. "But you look at teams in England and they can't cope with it, in terms of their league form. We would need probably a first-team squad - seniors - of maybe 24 outfield players. But if you were to qualify the finances might allow you to do that. That will be our first target when we come back: to do well in Europe again.

"We made a brilliant start to this season and that was credit to the players. We came back so fit and we were trying to be as positive as possible. We weren't concerned that Rosenborg were midway through their season, we turned that on its head and said 'they might be a bit jaded'.

"Getting into Europe might help us [attract players], maybe even winning the cup too. But then agents might think we've got more money and attempt to raise the bar in terms of wages. If that happens we'll just walk away because we won't break our wage barriers.

"I think it is unrealistic to expect us to reach the group stage. Okay, we beat Rosenborg and we should've beaten Minsk because we were a better side than them. But Rosenborg had a budget of €22m to €24m and then I think we would've played Standard Liege and, again, they are at another level from us. It is tough for Scottish football to break through. Even for Neil Lennon it's tough to attract the quality of players and he wants to progress Celtic, too, in the Champions League. I can get three players in. We will be able to do that within the current budget."

Delivering the first major trophy in St Johnstone's 130-year history alerted wealthier clubs to Wright's talents, of course, but he is content in Perth. "I'm contracted to St Johnstone, and more than happy. I'm not one who looks to do well, then get away from a club. I joke with the chairman [Steve Brown] that I'll be the first manager who gets a testimonial. He knocks that back and says I'll only ever be sacked or sold, so don't worry about testimonials."

An estimated 30,000 people turned out for yesterday's parade and Brown admitted it was the most emotional day of his life.

The Fair City was a sea of blue and white to acclaim Wright's team after their 2-0 win over Dundee United. Following the open-top bus parade, Brown revealed he is ready to secure the Ulsterman on a two-year extended contract, hailing him the club's most successful manager.

The Perth chairman has seen clubs from the south lure away Owen Coyle, Derek McInnes and Steve Lomas and does not plan to lose Wright. And in just one season Brown said Wright had eclipsed the achievements of 1960s manager Willie Ormond.

Brown said: "How does it feel to go through the streets of Perth? Very, very emotional. I lost it a couple of times. People beside me lost it, as well, and I'm not ashamed of that. It's going to take days to realise what we've done. The manager has been telling me for months 'the name's on the cup'. I'm saying 'no way'. But he was convinced. To have a Scottish Cup win is unbelievable. There has never been a better St Johnstone manager than Tommy.

"We had two away victories in Europe, including Rosenborg. We've had a top-six finish with three games to spare. We got to the League Cup semi-finals, albeit we were soundly beaten. Derek McInnes won manager of the year and it was thoroughly deserved. But if the votes were taken after the final, it might be different."

"Tommy's got another year on his deal. It's open to discussion but we'd be looking at another two years, I would have thought."

Former manager Steve Lomas yesterday praised the club on their historic victory, saying: "I am so happy for the team and my old assistant Tommy Wright, but especially for the old chairman Geoff Brown and his son Steve.

"The Brown family have done so much for the football club over nearly 30 years. I'm so chuffed for the older lads like Frazer Wright, Dave Mackay, Steven Anderson and Chris Millar, who have missed out so often in the past."

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