Belfast Telegraph

Don't be too harsh on Euro hopefuls: Patterson

By Graham Luney

Eddie Patterson feels Irish League clubs don't deserve to be blasted if they slip up on the European stage.

Glentoran, Crusaders, Linfield and Glenavon are in European action this week but our part-time clubs always come up against slick opponents, leaving them with daunting tasks.

Crusaders are first up tomorrow night in a Champions League first round qualifier when they take on Levadia Tallinn at Seaview.

In the Europa League on Thurdsay night, the Glens entertain Slovakian club MSK Zilina while Linfield are at home to Faroe Islands team NSI Runavik and Glenavon host Belarusian outfit Shakhtyor Soligorsk.

Irish League clubs have recorded some notebale triumphs on the continent and Patterson achieved two European triumphs with his former club Cliftonville but the difference in fitness levels and technical ability is often exposed.

"We are up against a formidable side as most Irish League teams are in Europe so everyone has to recognise that," said the Glens boss.

"Crusaders and Linfield winning in Europe last year was fantastic and underlines how clubs are starting to get their preparation right but I think it's important to remember that our sides are part-time and we have guys who are on holiday who are unable to be involved like Curtis Allen, David Scullion and Danny McKee while Niall Henderson is injured.

"A few boys might come back a day or two before the game like Stephen McAlorum so how can all the players be at peak fitness levels?

"We are up against quality sides and the timing of the fixtures makes the task even more difficult.

"We've brought in Conor McMenamin and Kristian Gibson and they are likely to be involved because we don't have a full squad available.

"But it's a great opportunity for those boys and hopefully they can get better with more first team football."

Patterson has started his homework on MSK Zilina and he has drawn comparisons between the Slovakian giants and his men.

"I've been watching clips of them on YouTube and they are a very young, attacking side capable of scoring a lot of goals," added Patterson.

"They finished second in their domestic league so there is no doubt they have plenty of quality and they have just finished their season on May 30 so they will still be physically strong and fiercely competitive.

"They have also won their league six times in 14 years and they have a European pedigree.

"There are comparisons with ourselves as most of their players will be in their early twenties and they will be used to their own laying style.

"They haven't had much of a break which means they will not be rusty.

"We are always faced with the problem of when to bring the players back as they need to have a proper rest."

Patterson missed out on signing Michael Carvill after the former Linfield hero opted to join Crusaders and the Glens boss added: "Michael wanted to sign for us but Crusaders offered more money and we couldn't compete with them financially.

"This club needs to balance the books and we have a strict payment plan which we must always respect."

Hamilton signed former Northern Ireland Under-21 midfielder Chris Turner from Dumbarton while striker Billy Kee has returned to League Two club Accrington Stanley on a one-year contract following his release by Scunthorpe United.

Kee said: "I think I've reached a stage when I just want to be happy and I'm happy at this club.

"There are a lot of familiar faces here and I think that I can do well for the club over the next year or more."

Belfast Telegraph


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