Europa League: St Johnstone adapt for heat of Armenian battle

St Johnstone players train at the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium
St Johnstone players had trained in Yerevan
Europa League first qualifying round, first leg: Alashkert v St Johnstone
Venue: Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium, Yerevan Date: Thursday, 2 July Date: 16:00 BST
Coverage: BBC Sport website

St Johnstone players will be battling against temperatures of around 30 degrees when they kick-off their Europa League campaign against Armenian minnows Alashkert on Thursday night.

Saints have made a request to Uefa that water breaks are allowed during the game to help the players battle the scorching heat.

Manager Tommy Wright says he will take the extreme heat into consideration when he looks at how to win the game.

"We will alter our tactics," Wright told BBC Scotland. "You certainly won't be able to play a full pressing game for 90 minutes.

"But we don't want to sit back for 90 minutes either. It will be about getting the balance."

Around 150 St Johnstone fans have made the journey from Scotland for the game, taking various routes to get there, including via Moscow and Kiev.

One fan of the Perth side said it took him around 18 hours of travel before he arrived in the Armenian capital but said the trip was well worth it.

"Absolutely! We will see how the football goes on Thursday, but it should be good," he said.

Tommy Wright speaks to the media
Tommy Wright had his own water break ready at the media conference

Saints chairman Steve Brown said that, despite the 3000-mile trip, this is a journey that all the fans can enjoy.

"It's a great experience for everyone involved, especially the fans," he said.

"The profile of the club is lifted by actually playing in Europe and we have done reasonably well."

The match is being played in the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium instead of the home side's smaller Alashkert Stadium, which is also in the Armenian capital.

Brown is enjoying the local hospitality - and the sights in Yerevan.

"This is a beautiful city and the people are really friendly," he said.

Although there is prize money from Uefa for reaching the Europa League, St Johnstone are unlikely to make much - if any - cash from this round of the tournament.

The cost of hiring a plane and accommodation is in excess of £70,000, but Brown says he would gladly qualify for the tournament every year.

"It means everything," he added. "Prior to the last four years, we had only qualified for Europe three times in our 130-year history and it's just incredible that we have qualified for the last four years consecutively."

Top Stories