IT’S the time of year when people again start to why Edinburgh have a history of being able to put sloppy league form behind them and put on a show when it comes to Europe.

On the face of it, it is ridiculous.

In the last six years, they have reached three quarter finals in either the Heineken Cup or the European Challenge Cup.

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Twice they have gone on to semi finals and once to a final.

Yet, in those seasons they finished 11th, eighth and ninth in the PRO12.

Add that they should have had a fourth quarter final two years ago, imploding in the final five minutes of the crunch game they were winning in Grenoble and it is a truly staggering tale of success in one tournament running in parallel with failure in another.

It is a subject that mystifies the players who are producing those performances as much as it bewilders the fans watching them.

“I’m not entirely sure why,” admits Tom Brown, who has been at the club for most of that bizarre run.

At least he is prepared to offer some some ideas, though, which is more than most on their sidelines have been able to come up with by way of explanation.

“It’s a new competition, a fresh competition,” he points out.

“The way that the [English] Premiership and French teams play maybe helps us with a different style. It maybe opens things up a wee bit more for us.

“Going back to last week [against Zebre], that really was a must-win game and you could see the pressure on the pitch in the performance. We need to use that pressure as a positive.

“In Europe, it’s a major competition but we have got the ability to go out there and really perform. Once we get the momentum in Europe and have that mindset, I think that is the key.

“If you have a mindset ‘we’ve had success in Europe’ you seem to mentally approach the game a wee bit better.

“I can’t put my finger on it, but once we get a couple of wins under our belt, tails up, it’s something we look forward to play in.”

All of which suggests that a huge amount is going to depend on how they start this weekend down at the Majedski Stadium, home of London Irish, a ground where they have a number of happy memories and one horror tale.

It was the place where they started their Heineken Cup winning run in 2011-12, the narrowest of victories sending them on course to top their pool and go on to become the only Scottish team to reach the semi-final.

It was also where they won a tense Challenge Cup quarter final in 2015 en route to thrashing the Newport Gwent Dragons in the semi final and heading for the final, which they lost Gloucester.

However, on the other hand, it is also a ground on they were thrashed 38-6 two years ago – albeit they were subsequently still on course to qualify for the that year’s quarter final 78 minutes into their final pool game when they handed Grenoble a gift score which cost them the losing bonus point.

“Going into Europe is a different challenge, new opposition and competition,” Brown added.

“The boys are looking forward to it. We have played Irish a few times and it will be a good challenge.

“Getting one over one of the Premiership sides is also a factor. The European Cups have allowed us to play the game we want to play.”

In the big ugly real world, the Challenge Cup undoubtedly has two factors working in Edinburgh’s favour. The first of those is that there is always a fighting chance that, certainly in the pool stage, the opposition are not going to be taking it as seriously as they might be if they were participating in the Champions’ Cup.

Richard Cockerill, the head coach who has vast experienced of the English game as both player and coach, hinted at that earlier this week when he suggested that he thought London Irish might rest players while they concentrate on beating relegation from the Premiership the season after winning promotion.

The other factor is that while the Guinness PRO14 is a test of the whole squad, any cup competition tests only the best team the club is able to put out on the field, rather than fully examining the depth of a squad.

With a number of Scotland internationals on their books and the likes of Blair Kinghorn and Jamie Ritchie, likely to join them in the national squad over the next year or two, Edinburgh have, on paper, a strong starting side. If they can relax and play to their potential, they should be a match for most teams.

Brown, it should be pointed out, is firmly onside with the view that Edinburgh are starting to get on top of their strength-in-depth problem.

“We have is healthy competition and the quality of training has improved,” he said.

Despite that, they have lost half their games, the same record as earned them ninth place in the league two seasons ago and eighth the season before that.

All of which only reinforces the impression that, whatever the reason, there really is a different attitude when European competition comes around.