LIAM Craig admits his latest European qualification with St Johnstone means even more after the Perth club rescued his career two years ago.

Craig left Saints for Hibernian in 2013 having just sealed their second consecutive Europa League place and Tommy Wright’s team continued their success without him.

But the midfielder suffered relegation with Hibs and feared his full-time career in football might be over after being released in 2015.

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However, the 30-year-old returned to St Johnstone and helped them back into Europe after a year’s absence with victory over Partick Thistle on Saturday.

“Personally for me it’s brilliant,” he said ahead of tonight’s visit of Hearts. “Two years ago when I came back I just wanted to help the club continue the success it had had the two years when I wasn’t here.

“So to help the club finish fourth two seasons in a row and to qualify for Europe off the back of it is something I am going to really look forward to and enjoy.

“Sometimes you can take it for granted but two seasons ago when I was struggling to find a club, you are just dreaming of coming back and having days like we had on Saturday.

“Two summers ago I didn’t know where I was going to be playing my football, if playing football at all.

“The phone stops ringing. And it’s funny because I played golf with the manager at the start of that summer, and he told me the phone would not ring for the next three or four weeks because no one was doing any business, everyone was away on their holidays.

“But when you are needing a club it’s frustrating.

“The only thing I had was a part-time contract in the Conference in England, which was a good contract, it was a lot more money than I signed here for, but I wanted to stay playing full-time football.

“Apart from Peter Houston at Falkirk and James Fowler at Queen of the South offering me training facilities, it was a case of never mind getting a contract but I couldn’t even get in anywhere to train.

“But it was actually the club being in Europe that actually helped because they were in Europe and got a few injuries, which opened the door for me to come back in.

“The manager has shown that faith in me and I am just glad I can repay him with my performances and the results the team have been getting.”

Craig recently signed a new two-year deal and Wright is aiming to tie up the likes of Tam Scobbie and Alan Mannus before the close season, given Saints will begin their European qualifiers on June 29.

Wright said: “There are one or two who are out of contract who we are talking to and we have targets in mind, we are talking to one or two of them as well.

“Hopefully we can get at least one of the targets done before we come back.

“We are coming back on June 10, which gives us 19 days. I think that’s the earliest back, it is certainly the least number of days.

“We do everything in terms of sports science. Players don’t lose a lot of fitness these days, they will come back in good shape and we know how to manage that because we have been there before,” Wright said.

Wright may also give players added rest while his team take on Hearts and Rangers in the coming days.

“We have still got to be strong over the next two games but we can look at one or two who might need a bit of rest, but we still want to finish the season off with two wins and maintain our good record against Hearts,” he said.

“The squad is strong enough without weakening the team,” Wright added.