When Will St. Mirren Play in Europe Again?

When Will St. Mirren Play in Europe Again?

St. Mirren fans aren't unreasonably demanding. They have expectations for all players who put on a Saints shirt. That means to play with courage and ambition, to shirk no challenge and fear no opponent. Other clubs have strict parameters for success, especially in securing success in European football which is considered as the preserve of the elite. 

These clubs spend astronomical sums of money to compete at the top level. To put it in context, Kylian Mbappe earns more in a week than the Saints spent on their record transfer fee. Understandably, it's hard to imagine St. Mirren featuring among Champions League betting options in the near future.

However, there was a time when St. Mirren was regularly knocking on the door of these continental competitions. Mind you, the club was always left on the doorstep, falling at the first or second hurdle, but that didn't diminish the adventure, or dim the dreams of Saints fans who would follow the team to Sweden or Norway.

St. Mirren's Last European Adventure

The football landscape was vastly different the last time St. Mirren played European football. Heck, the world was different. It was 1987, and the Saints were playing competitive continental games for the fourth season in that decade. In the first round of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, they were pitted against Tromsø from Norway. A third-minute goal from Kenny McDowell in the home leg was enough to take them through to the second round 1-0 on aggregate. 

In that round, Mechelen was waiting to lock horns and do battle. A goalless first leg in Belgium made Saints fans confident about their prospects of advancement to the quarter-finals. Unfortunately, Eli Ohana spoiled the party in Scotland by scoring a brace and securing a 2-0 aggregate win for the visitors. Underlining their quality, Mechelen went on to win all but one of their remaining games on the way to winning the competition. It brought an end to a decade of adventure for St. Mirren.

Is Another St. Mirren European Adventure on the Horizon?

With the introduction of the UEFA Europa Conference League in 2021, teams from countries outside the big five leagues were given hope that they too could participate in European competitions.

With this development, it isn't delusional to think that St. Mirren could end their European drought in the coming seasons. The way the current qualification system works, the top five teams in Scotland qualify for European football. St. Mirren finished sixth last season, six points behind Hibs. Had they performed a bit better after the top six split, they could have landed a European fixture. The margins are fine. The Scottish Cup is another route, with winners of that competition earning a Europa League place the following season.

The other factor that plays into when another St. Mirren European adventure could happen is the UEFA coefficient system. This is the ranking and seeding that UEFA use to determine how many European places to award specific countries and at what stage of the competition those countries enter. 

Scotland is ninth in the current rankings. Countries ranked from 7th to 12th receive five European places, two of which are Europa League places. The country in 6th gets six places, whereas the top five get seven. The rank is determined by European performance by the clubs of the said countries. This means that the performances of the likes of Celtic and Rangers have a huge effect on how many places are awarded to Scotland. The gulf in points (ranked across the previous five seasons) between France and Scotland is huge, but a few good runs by the likes of Rangers and Celtic could work towards getting a sixth spot for the Scottish Premiership.