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Our clubs must improve their standards

The staggering lack of ambition of Irish League clubs in Europe continues as usual this year.

Not only do we traditionally go out meekly to foreign opposition, but this year we witness the simply unbelievable spectacle of Crusaders playing their first round Europa League match with their manager and captain on holiday.

The Crues, who had broken new ground a few months earlier by winning the Setanta Cup, simply threw the towel in. Paying customers were tossing their money away.

I don't blame the individuals involved. It's a part-time game. But what's really going on?

Don't Irish League clubs appreciate the amount of money and kudos available in Europe? Didn't anybody notice Shamrock Rovers's run a couple of seasons ago and how much that did for the club and the game down south?

Our record is so absolutely abysmal that, even when we do manage to beat, or draw with, some team from Latvia, or Montenegro, it's hailed as a great victory for the gritty minnows of Northern Ireland against the might of Europe.

Our clubs seem to be more interested in belly-aching about the timing of games and taking government grants than improving the standard of football.

Jim Boyce is right in trying to change the timing of first-round matches in the Europa League, but more has to be done by the clubs themselves. Taking it all a bit more seriously would help.

JOHN MORRISON

Belfast

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