Europa League: St Johnstone boss calls for regional draw

St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright
Wright's side were fourth in the Premiership

St Johnstone's Tommy Wright has called for the early Europa League qualifiers to be regionalised after being handed a 6,000-mile round trip to Armenia.

The Saints manager's side play the first leg of their first qualifying round against Alashkert in the Armenian capital Yerevan on 2 July.

The winners after the return leg a week later face Red Star Belgrade or Kazakh side Kairat Almaty.

"We feel it would be common sense for it to be regionalised," Wright said.

Scottish Premiership rivals Aberdeen have also been handed a long journey to face Macedonian side Shkendija - with the winners facing Rijeka of Croatia in the second round.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle will play Romanian side Astra Giurgiu in the second round.

St Johnstone could have been drawn against Odds Ballklubb of Norway, Kukesi of Albania, Jelgava of Latvia or Icelandic side Vikingur Reykjavik.

Instead, they face a trip to Armenia's border with Iran.

St Johnstone players look dejected as they leave the pitch after losing 3-2 on aggregate to Spartak Trnava in the third qualifying round of the Europa League last season
St Johnstone lost to Spartak Trnava in the third qualifying round of the Europa League last season

"The draw is what it is, we've got to deal with it and we will deal with it," Wright told his club website.

"We were hoping it was going to regionalised, but it's not, so we will be making the 6,000-mile round trip to play them."

Alashkert, who play at the 6,800-capacity Alashkert Stadium in the capital Yerevan, are making their European debut after finishing fourth in the Armenian Premier League.

Most of coach Abraham Khashmanyan's squad is home grown, with Armenia defender Vahagn Minasyan his captain.

"I'm happy the second leg will be in Perth and that's a really big positive for us," added Wright, who has taken his squad to Northern Ireland to prepare.

"We're both in the same boat with regards to preparation, so we'll do our best to get DVDs of them playing to know what we're up against."

St Johnstone last season defeated Lucerne before losing to Spartak Trnava in the third qualifying round.

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