Liam Gordon has sampled European football with St Johnstone from the sidelines.
But now he’s ready to be in the thick of the action.
With Steven Anderson injured back in 2017, Tommy Wright needed to find a centre-half to partner Joe Shaughnessy against FK Trakai back for the Perth side’s last Europa League qualifier.
The Northern Irishman opted for Ally Gilchrist home and away instead of Gordon or Jason Kerr.
Wright’s successor, Callum Davidson, will have no central defensive dilemmas when Saints enter the tournament this time around, with both Kerr and Gordon certain starters if fit.
And coming up against a renowned European club – PSV Eindhoven, Galatasary, Sparta Prague or Rapid Vienna – promises to be an experience to savour.
“Joe Shaughnessy and Ally Gilchrist played against Trakai,” Gordon recalled. “I travelled with the squad but didn’t get on the field.
“I wasn’t sure how close I was to playing. Myself, Ally and Jason were all of a similar level and stature.
“Even though I wasn’t involved, it was still a great experience for myself at that age.
“Now I hopefully have an opportunity to be a part of it on the pitch.
The bigger, the better
“Everyone is excited. You see teams like Galatasaray, PSV, Sparta Prague and Rapid Vienna.
“These are sides I used to play on FIFA or Football Manager when I was younger.
“Some of their players are lighting up the Euros. The better players you play against, the more you learn.
“The chance to play them in a European game with St Johnstone will be surreal.
“But what an experience and a great opportunity for us to put ourselves out there on such a big platform in European competition.”
— St. Johnstone FC (@StJohnstone) May 26, 2021
Gordon added: “We’ll have no fear. That has been instilled into us by the way we play and how we are aggressive on and off the ball.
“We will obviously respect the level of opponent we’ll be facing. On paper we will be major underdogs.
“That suits us. St Johnstone have been underdogs for our whole existence. I’m happy if people continue to look at us like that.
“We know we’ll be up against it but we want to qualify and go through to the next round.
“We’ll embrace the challenge, will give 100 per cent and see where it takes us.
“As I say, what a platform to show everyone what we can do.
“We’ll have an extra two or three weeks this time and we’ll also have a league game first.
“You get the competitive edge and mindset that we will need for the European games.
“Some might never get an opportunity like this again.”
Saints return to pre-season training next Monday – a week later than a lot of Premiership clubs.
They were the only Scottish side to play every domestic match of the 2020/21 season and had certainly earned those few extra days off.
“The first couple of weeks we were advised not to do anything,” said Gordon. “It was a hard season and the body needed rest.
“We need to recharge the batteries.
“We were issued an off-season programme from Bod (Alex Headrick) the sports scientist to ease ourselves back in.
“Each week it progresses but it’s not about hammering you. That is more what pre-season is for.
“Everyone comes back in good condition because it’s a great group of professionals.
“We have a squad that is so hard-working and willing to work for each other, while wanting the best for themselves too.”
Perth born and bred, Gordon hasn’t tired of sharing Saints’ double success with people from his home city.
“It is still pretty crazy and surreal,” he said.
“I was in the town on the Sunday after the Scottish Cup win and the fans were thanking us and congratulating the team.
“You could see what it meant on their faces – all of these people of different ages.
“There was the younger generation who have had the glory years and the older ones who remember losing to Clydebank on a Tuesday night.
“In their wildest dreams they never expected us to even win the cup in 2014.
“But to do the double is something I don’t think anyone will ever really believe happened. It’s not sunk in for me.
“I see things every now and then about it when I’m having a quiet moment – maybe the two trophies together. I just shake my head.
“It’s amazing to see the reaction and impact you can have on people’s lives, people who you don’t even know. For me being a local lad, it is maybe a wee bit more special.
“Everyone around the city is in such great spirits and for us to be the reason for that is amazing.”