JAMIE MURPHY today admitted it has been hard to blank out thoughts of Motherwell playing in next season's Champions League qualifiers.
The Steelmen's 1-0 victory at Hearts and the clean sheet from their 0-0 draw with Rangers rubber-stamped their entry into Europe's top tournament at the third round of qualification next term.
But with Sunday's SPL finale against Dundee United still to come, Murphy's mind is already drifting ahead to a possible glamour double- header with one of the big guns of European football in July.
He said: "The last week has been great at Motherwell. To nail down the Champions League qualifying place with two SPL games to go was massive for us.
"So it has been a bit hard to try and keep focused on the final league game with United.
"For a club like Motherwell to be playing in the Champions League qualifiers for the first time is tremendous. And to be part of the squad that achieved that and made a bit of club history is unbelievable.
"So it is hard not to start getting ahead of yourself and looking forward to next July. That said, we have a job to do against United and make sure we go out on a high in front of our own fans who have been fantastic over the season."
Murphy is also hoping the prospect of a Champions League campaign will persuade several of the first-team stalwarts who are going out of contract to nail their colours to the Fir Park masthead.
Regulars like midfielders Keith Lasley and Stevie Jennings, left-back Stevie Hammell and centre-back Tim Clancy are all out of contract.
And club skipper Stephen Craigan announced yesterday he was quitting the club after 378 games.
But Murphy, the Steelmen's record European scorer, is desperate for his mates to commit to campaign 2012/13.
He said: "These guys have all played a vital part in the success we have had over this season and also the last one when we made the Scottish Cup Final.
"Hopefully, the thought of getting involved in the Champions League will be enough for them to stay.
"It's vital for us that we retain as many of the current team as possible and hopefully the boss can add one or two players over the summer."
Meanwhile, midfielder Ross Forbes has revealed he will leave Fir Park this summer. The 23-year-old has made only six appearances this season, half of those from the bench.
Forbes made a significant impact when he first came broke through under Jim Gannon, scoring nine goals in his first season, but has been used sparingly recently.
Forbes said: "I've had a great time at Motherwell and I'm leaving with my head held high."