John Coleman vows Sligo will be positive on Euro stage
Published 03/07/2014 | 02:30
In a year when they have lost their way, as well as their manager, Sligo Rovers enter European competition tonight intent on getting their season back on track.
Undaunted by the challenge posed by Lithuanian side Banga Gargzdai, a team who lie seventh in their domestic league and whose only previous appearance in Europe ended in a 7-0 aggregate defeat, everyone in Sligo is preaching optimism ahead of the Europa League qualifiers first-leg clash in the Gargzdai Stadium.
"We're here to win, not to shut up shop," said recently appointed manager John Coleman.
"So we will approach the game positively and not say things like, 'we want to keep the tie alive for the second leg'. We want more than that."
So too does Danny North, their striker. Yet to score in Europe and yet to win in either Champions League or Europa League action with Sligo, North has his eyes on a potential second-round date with Rosenborg and turning the club's season around.
"In one sense you could say it hasn't been too bad a year, given that we have a trophy (the Setanta Cup) in the cabinet," said North.
"But the players do feel a massive responsibility to Ian (Baraclough, their former manager). When the team does well, the players get the praise and when it isn't going well, the manager takes the brunt of it.
"On a personal level I was gutted when Ian lost his job. But, as harsh as it is, that's football.
"You can't stand still and reflect. John has arrived and has been getting his message across, inspiring us to the win over Drogheda in his opening game and now we're here, in Lithuania, wanting to get the European monkey off our backs because, despite doing really well domestically in the last five years, this group of players have still to advance through a European round.
"We believe we can, though, and have nothing to fear here. The carrot of facing Rosenborg in the next round is an attractive one."
Not nearly as attractive as the path laid out to the third round for Derry City, who play Aberystwyth Town tonight knowing that victory will set them up with a second-round clash with FC Shakhtyor, an undistinguished Belarussian club. Beat both teams and a cheque of €380,000 will be in the post from UEFA HQ.
"The financial side of it is important, of course it is," said manager Peter Hutton, "but the feel-good factor that comes from a win or two in Europe is impossible to quantify.
"We had it in 2006 when we beat Gothenburg and Gretna and then held Paris Saint Germain scoreless.
"That run brought supporters to The Brandywell who had never been before. A new generation of supporters were born."
Only Hutton and Barry Molloy have survived from that era, though. For Derry, a new generation of heroes are required before the support follows.