Strachan stays cool as 19-year exile ends

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The Independent Football

Gordon Strachan will guide Southampton's return to Europe tonight after a 19-year exile as his side open their campaign against Steaua Bucharest at St Mary's, but has set his players no target for the competition.

Strachan has taken Southampton to fourth in the Premiership after the club's best start to a season in two decades. The Saints' run to last season's FA Cup final, combined with Arsenal's Champions' League qualification, ensured their first European campaign since 1984.

Despite his six-game unbeaten opening to this term, Strachan is not getting carried away before the meeting with Victor Piturca's team, who finished second in the Romanian championship last season and are now top after their own six-game unbeaten streak this season.

"The Uefa Cup is our number one priority right now but we're not good enough to have Europe as our overall priority," Strachan said. "We're not a Manchester United or Arsenal, with their Champions' League priorities - and we don't think of ourselves as being in that league... It's more apprehension than excitement for me as it's my first European game as manager."

Strachan was yesterday encouraged by the recovery from injury of Rory Delap (ankle), Neil McCann (calf) and Fitz Hall (toe).