Belfast Telegraph

Michael Halliday has fingers crossed Crues get Fulham clash

Michael Halliday has sent Fulham a special 'good luck' message for their Europa League campaign which starts tonight.

The reason for the striker's sudden interest in the London club's fortunes is easily understood as Crusaders will get a crack at Martin Jol's side if they can see off the challenge of NSI Runavik of the Faroe Islands in the first qualifying round.

The first leg will be at Craven Cottage tonight and it's a venue Stephen Baxter's men are hoping to visit on Thursday, July 21.

Suddenly there's a new army of Fulham fans on the Shore Road and Halliday, who helped Glentoran stun AC Allianssi in the Uefa Cup in 2004, is relishing a rare opportunity for an Irish League club to go toe to toe with English top flight opponents.

"I think it's fair to say we would all be devastated if Fulham didn't progress in the Europa League after we got them in the draw," said Halliday.

"As far as we are concerned it would be the biggest shock in football if Runavik beat them and it would be tough to take from our perspective.

"The Fulham game is a real glamour one for everyone including the fans who would only normally see the players, many of whom are internationals, on the television.

"The two Northern Ireland internationals (Chris Baird and Aaron Hughes) increase the local interest and I would expect a great atmosphere at both matches.

"It's more difficult now for an Irish League side to get this quality of opponent in European competition so we have struck it lucky this time.

"I can remember talk of Glentoran playing Liverpool but we ended up getting TNS.

"For many of our players like Stuart Dallas and Jordan Owens it's another big stage to show what they can do and I'm sure they'll relish the chance to perform well."

Halliday is also looking forward to lining up alongside another former Glentoran stalwart Paul Leeman.

"Paul's a fantastic signing for us," he added.

"The one thing you need to challenge for the big trophies is strength in depth and the new signings give the manager more options. Hopefully we can be in contention for the title again."

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