Europa League: Glentoran glory comes at huge cost
Published 09/07/2011 | 08:59
It was a case of the morning after the night before for Glentoran yesterday as something of a hangover kicked in following their astonishing Europa League heroics on Thursday night.
A penalty shoot-out victory over full-time Macedonian outfit FK Renova at the Oval — their first European success on home soil since 1985 — sent the east Belfast men into a second qualifying round tie with Ukrainians Vorskla Poltava and sparked memories of bygone days when famous continental clashes were the norm.
However, while that buzzing euphoria hasn't been swept away, a rare extended European adventure is not without its problems.
Firstly, this is not going to signal a break in the financial difficulties the club have become engulfed in.
A lot of the €90,000 (£80,000) gift from Uefa for making it through to the next stage is likely to be swallowed up in projected travel costs as Glentoran's board and admin staff frantically attempt to find the cheapest way of getting to Poltava — a city in central Ukraine, 190 miles from the capital, Kiev — yet at the same time, allowing the players the best possible preparation for the game.
That could mean chartering at least one flight, already racking up a hefty bill, and that's before a decent hotel for a travelling party of around 30 is factored in.
“It's not the easiest place in the world to travel to and there is a possibility that we will have to charter a plane as we did for the first leg,” said vice chairman Aubry Ralph.
“You get €90,000 for going through and there isn't going to be a great deal left over after that.
“On the plus side, we have been given an extra home tie in Europe. We had a good crowd there on Thursday and I think the atmosphere they created made a big difference and hopefully we will get a few more through the gate next week for the home leg.”
There are other issues, though, but these are from a personnel point of view.
Bookings for Colin Nixon and fellow defender Johnny Taylor in both legs mean that they are out of the first encounter with Poltava on Thursday.
Sean Ward will head off on holiday on Tuesday, so he too will be missing – that's three defenders including the central partnership of Ward and Nixon, the strongest aspect of the Glens' team.
As well as that, Thursday night's goalscoring hero Richard Clarke gets married today and he and his new wife, Claire, jet off to the sunnier climes of the Maldives and Dubai tomorrow.
“I knew when we set the date that it would be in the close season but unfortunately it means now I am going to miss the second round,” said Clarke.
“It's obviously disappointing from the point of view that I was so proud to have played a part in what we did on Thursday night, but this is my wedding and I was obviously never going to even contemplate telling Claire that I might be spending what was supposed to be our honeymoon, in the Ukraine!”
Clarke added: “Thursday night was just a special, special night. I have to admit that I haven't really shown what I can do since I came to Glentoran but hopefully now I can use that as a springboard and push on.
“It was a brilliant experience and there was a real, genuine buzz about the place. The atmosphere created by the fans was brilliant and
hopefully we can recreate those types of performances and get more and more people through the gates, not just for the second round but for the season ahead.”
With so many players missing, young fringe members of the squad have had to be drafted in and they have to undergo a mandatory cardiac scan before they can take part in European competition, so there are currently frantic arrangements taking place to deal with that problem.
Add to that a possible extended suspension for Elliott Morris, sent off in the first match in Macedonia, with the goalkeeper the subject of a disciplinary hearing and the Glens have not had their troubles to seek.
However, anyone who witnessed the scenes that followed Thursday’s epic win and they will tell you these are headaches that they will gladly deal with.