St Mirren FC’s European History

St Mirren FC’s European History

Saints have a long and esteemed history in Scottish football. Our crowing glories include three Scottish Cups, a League Cup and of course the Anglo Scottish Cup, but we haven’t tasted domestic glory in a decade now since that memorable victory over Hearts at Hampden.

The more experienced Buddies fans will remember the glory days and although we won't be lifting any silverware this season, a top six place is still very much in our grasp and who knows if a return to European football might yet be around the corner.

When was the last time St Mirren competed in Europe?

A Champions League bet on St Mirren isn't possible in the immediate future - the quality scattered across the world-renowned club competition is incredible. They would find themselves among European giants like Manchester City, Inter Milan, Napoli and Real Madrid, who are all betting favourites to progress to the quarter-finals in the 2022-23 campaign. 

However, St Mirren has competed in Europe on four occasions, albeit not on the main stage. The 1987-88 campaign was the last time they competed on the continent in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, following their most recent Scottish Cup triumph in 1986-87.

The UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup journey ended in the second round when Alex Smith’s boys were knocked out on aggregate by Belgian side Mechelen. Unfortunately, second-round knockouts have largely been the story of St Mirren’s European adventures thus far.

Two seasons prior, the Saints competed in the UEFA Cup for a third time, which would prove the last in decades. This time it was Alex Miller’s side that upset the odds to battle back from a 1-0 first-leg defeat and progress after extra time against Slavia Prague (pictured). But it was the same story in the next round and they were knocked out in a thrilling tie that ended 5-4 for Swedish Hammarby.

The 1983-84 UEFA Cup campaign ended at the first hurdle at the hands of Feyenoord, while yet another second-round defeat to Saint-Etienne saw them bail out of the same competition in 1980-81. Despite relatively little success, older fans will look back fondly on the 80s – there were plenty of exciting away days and exhilarating European ties.

Can St Mirren bridge the gap at the top?

Since earning promotion back to the Premiership in 2018, St Mirren is yet to finish in the top half and earn a Championship Group spot. The closest they came was in 2020-21, missing out on goal difference to St. Johnstone.

Closing the gap between Scottish giants Celtic and Rangers seems an almost impossible task at this stage. However, qualifying for Europe can be done without ousting one of the big boys from the top spots. Third place would be enough for a Europa League adventure, while fourth and fifth would earn qualification to the Europa Conference League.

With a handful of games left in the 2022-23 regular campaign, the Buddies still have every chance of claiming their first top-six finish since 1985. It would be a tough task competing regularly among Scotland’s biggest clubs, but they would only have to finish above one other team to secure their spot in Europe.

It’s been a long wait for European away trips, but with Stephen Robinson at the helm, St Mirren is on the brink of restoring the glory days.