St Johnstone's Murray Davidson anticipates long haul season

Mikita Bukatkin and Murray Davidson
Murray Davidson (right) playing for St Johnstone against FC Minsk in 2013

St Johnstone midfielder Murray Davidson expects the upcoming campaign to be a "a very long season" but believes the Perth side can cope with the demands.

Saints will enter the Europa League at the first qualifying round stage, with the first leg on 2 July.

The return leg will be a week later and the draw will take place on 22 June.

"There are positives and negatives to being back in so early," said Davidson, 27. "Because it's such a short break, you don't lose much fitness."

Last summer, Aberdeen played three Europa League qualifying rounds before starting their domestic season and the Dons went on to finish second in the Scottish Premiership.

Europa League qualifying rounds
St Johnstone are one of 51 seeded teams, along with AberdeenPossible opponents include Bala Town, Cork City, Ferencvaros and Glentoran
Should Saints win, they will be unseeded in the second qualifying roundFifteen sides, including Inverness, enter at at the second qualifying round stage

Aberdeen join Tommy Wright's Saints in the first qualifying round, while Scottish Cup winners Inverness Caledonian Thistle enter in the next round.

Caley Thistle's Cup win secured St Johnstone's European place as the Highlanders had already qualified for Europe through the league.

The McDiarmid Park side have been in the Europa League qualifying rounds over the past three seasons but have entered at the second qualifying round stage on each occasion.

"I think it will be great preparation for us ahead of the league campaign because, by the time those games come around, we'll have played at least two - hopefully more - competitive matches," said Davidson.

"But the coaching staff have already spoken about the fact it is going to be a very long season.

"We don't have the biggest squad as things stand, although I'm sure there will be other bodies coming in, so we will have to find a way to manage things as we can't go flat out for 10 months.

St Johnstone players celebrating
Saints finished fourth in the Scottish Premiership last season

"We will need to take the odd break here and there, while training might get altered a little bit.

"But we can only go with what we have got in these first few games.

"Everybody will be 100% ready to go and, when it comes to dealing with fatigue later in the season, we will cross that bridge when it comes to it."

A broken knee-cap, a head knock and another knee injury have restricted Davidson's appearances over the past two seasons.

"I just hope I can steer clear of injury this season," he added.

"I had a very serious one a couple of years back when I ruptured my patella tendon, which wasn't nice. I spent a best part of a year out with that one then had a couple of niggles after that.

"It is the worst thing possible as a football player to be missing games. It doesn't matter if it's a week or a year, you hate coming on a Saturday and sitting in the stand. You feel helpless.

"But I'm looking to build up a run of games now. I feel confident in my body now and this is the strongest I have felt since I came back from that knee injury."