The arrival of Jim Gannon only a couple of days before the first match meant that the squad was severely limited going into the first tie. Even then it was clear the manager was not afraid to make bold decisions but a struggle against the organised Welsh showed little of what was to come. We made history in Wales by becoming the first Scottish side to overturn a home leg deficit and the 8-1 thrashing of Flamaturi was something that will live long in the memory. Regardless of how good or bad the Albanians may be, Falkirk's struggles against Vaduz and Aberdeen's utter humiliation - as the seeded side remember - showed that there are few easy games left in Europe for Scottish teams.
Amber makes new friends
The third qualifying round was always likely to be our final destination and it was excellent to be drawn against one of the famous names of European football, one of only two former European champions in the draw at that stage. Sadly only around 170 fans made it out of the UK with the team (assuming the Albania ten were all in Bucharest) but those in Albania and Romania had a ball, meeting new people and seeing new places. For our club, it is what European football is all about. The 'rabbits in headlights' performance in Bucharest was slightly disappointing but Steaua were superb. In the return leg we had them on the ropes until a goal completely against the run of play changed the tie and with a bit of extra luck in the first half, we could easily have pulled ourselves to within one.It was not to be but we can still be proud of the manager and players for the run they put together. Importantly, we also discovered that players like Hutchison, Forbes and Slane will also be able to compete this year even if we cannot rely on them totally while the new signings were given a chance to bed in during competitive games rather than friendly matches. It would be unrealistic to expect great things from our young squad but with another couple of additions we have the makings of a decent team. If the SPL season turns out as well as our European efforts then we are in for some exciting times ahead and we look forward to the next couple of weeks before the domestic season kicks off in Perth on August 15.