Craig Thomson hoping to make impact in Europa League Qualifier as St Johnstone winger relishes chance to shine

22-year old St Johnstone winger Craig Thomson is hopeful of playing a part in tomorrow’s Europa League Qualifier against Lithuanian side FK Trakai at McDiarmid Park.

The youngster from Leven in Fife has been with the Saints since Under-14 level and is hopeful tonight could be his chance.

I started off playing football when I was about 5, with the team my brother played for, which was East Neuk. Then, after a few years I moved on to Kennoway. I played a match outside St Johnstone’s stadium – and I think Saints had someone there watching. I then got invited for a trial before signing. Since then, I have progressed up the ranks into the Under-20’s and then in to the first-team with loan spells at Elgin and Stranraer in between.”

Thomson made his debut for the Perth side in 2014 when he came on as a late substitute during a 2-0 win over Dundee United before joining Elgin on loan for the next campaign.

I was surprised to get on, to be honest. I had been on the bench a few times before that but was mainly in the Under-20’s. We were winning 2-0 and it was near the end of the game so I think the manager just thought he would reward me with some game time I was happy to get on and felt it was progress in my career. Then, the following season I went out on loan to Elgin. I felt I learnt a lot as you weren’t playing in a meaningless league no more. These matches meant something; boys had bonuses to play for and the club were needing wins as they were bottom of the league when I arrived. It was certainly a valuable experience.”

After returning to St Johnstone for the 2015/16 campaign, the Fifer made 11 appearances for the Premiership side that term.

It was quite a slow start, to be honest. I was mainly playing Under-20’s to begin with but then I got a few substitute appearances in. Getting my first start was great – again, it just felt as if I had progressed and shown the manager enough in training and in the Under-20’s for him to give me my first start. I broke my collarbone near the end of the season, though, and I was out for around 4 weeks before the season ended so I was just back when pre-season returned, so, I was a little short in fitness. I managed to build it up though and got involved with the first-team again throughout the BetFred Cup group games before I went out on loan to Stranraer.”

Thomson added: “I had a chat with the manager and he felt that there was a lot of competition in that area and my chances might be limited so we agreed I should go on loan and keep playing games. I enjoyed myself at Stranraer; it was another step up and I scored my first senior goals there as well. I was disappointed not to do that while on loan at Elgin, so I was delighted to progress further in this spell away from the club.”

Thomson arrived back at McDiarmid Park during January and forced his way back into manager Tommy Wright’s plans.

I think I done well when I went back, especially in the Aberdeen game. It was 0-0 and I came on. I am sure winning that game cemented us as 4th place in the league so it was a big win. I think when I came on, the game suited me: breaking at pace and bursting into the spaces on the counter-attack. I feel I am quite good in front of goal and I felt my finish showed that – I have always been confident of being able to play at this level and for St Johnstone and I was glad to make such a big contribution in such a big game.”

Thomson is now preparing for tomorrow evening’s Europa League Qualifier. The first leg will take place in Perth this evening against Lithuanian side, FK Trakai.

I was on the bench a couple of years ago in the European matches so I have had a little bit of experience, but, now I feel I am a more important player amongst the first-team. Hopefully if I get a chance, I can play well and make an impact. I am quite a level-headed guy and I have been involved with the first-team for a while now so I feel I am ready if called upon to step up and make my European debut.”

Speaking ahead of the tie, the winger said:

I think in the past, it has suited us to be at home second, but, we are confident on winning. We aren’t overly-confident, we aren’t underestimating the task we have ahead of us. We know it will be tricky tie, especially as we are at home first. The impetus is all on us but if we can go out there and play the way we can, I see no reason why we cannot get a positive result and take that in to the second leg across in Lithuania.”

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