Ruaidhri Higgins has urged his Derry City players not to let this opportunity pass them by as they prepare to host Riga FC in tonight’s Europa League Conference qualifier at the Brandywell (7.45pm).
Higgins has been involved in many special European nights already as a player and coach, and he is hoping that his first foray onto this stage as manager will be just as memorable.
“It’s a completely different dynamic being a manager,” he admitted.
“You have a thousand and one things to take into consideration, whereas as a player you can just focus on your performance. It’s special, and there’s real pride I suppose in being the manager and taking Derry City into Europe.
“It’s a proud moment and it’s one we don’t want to let pass us by. We want to grab it with both hands and make sure we do the people of Derry proud.”
Higgins was part of the Derry City squad which defeated Skonto Riga in the Europa League back in 2009, but he knows that tonight’s opponents, only formed in 2014, will be a different challenge altogether. “It’s a different kettle of fish,” he agreed.
“They have got a good record in Europe over the last four or five years and they have taken big clubs all the way; a couple of years ago they played Celtic who needed a 90th minute winner; last year for 60 out of the 180 minutes against Malmo they had 10 men and still nearly knocked them out.
“Malmo beat them 2-1 but they ran them extremely close with ten men for a third of the 180 minutes.
“They have had big wins as well over the last four or five years.
“They have experience, and they know how to go about their business, and they are streetwise. They would have more European experience than us, but we have a vibrant team and an energetic team and we want to stick to our principles and our beliefs and try and put in a big performance.
“We’ll need absolutely everybody in the ground and make this place as hostile and as difficult as possible and that’s what we’re asking for.
“I think we can get a huge result and it’s up to us all to believe it, and not let it pass it by, and try and grab it by the scruff and try to put in a memorable performance.”