Roy Coyle has admitted that he never believed he would ever manage Glentoran again - and he is aiming to take his unlikely return even further tonight.
The Glens are in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik to take on KR in the Europa League first qualifying round, first leg (7.15pm) hoping to register some rare continental joy for local clubs.
Not counting Cliftonville’s Intertoto Cup success over Latvians FC Dinaburg in 2007, Glentoran were the last team to win an away leg in what would be seen as one of the main European competitions and Coyle was at the helm that night in July 2004 when the east Belfast men shocked Finnish side AC Allianssi in Helsinki in the then UEFA Cup.
Drawing 2-2 at the Oval, the edge was with the Finns, especially when they went a goal up in the second leg but Tommy McCallion’s equaliser and a winner from Colin Nixon, ten minutes from time, secured a famous victory for Coyle’s side.
There have been many ups and downs since then, not least for Coyle himself, who left the club under a cloud a couple of years later, before making a shock return at the end of last season as a mentor for the inexperienced Scott Young.
The rookie boss doesn’t have the necessary coaching badges to lead a team into European competition and the Glens have been given special dispensation by UEFA to have Coyle bark out the orders from the sidelines.
So five years after his last European adventure — a Champions’ League hammering by Shelbourne — Coyle is relishing the opportunity to take charge once again and hopefully get another crack at it by masterminding victory over KR Reykjavik.
“I never, ever believed that one day I would manage Glentoran again if I am being totally honest. I never thought this day would come,” he said.
“That said, I will enjoy the occasion and hopefully we will manage to get a good result.
“I am in no doubt that it is going to be tough because for every side in our league, no matter who you play in European competition, it is always going to be a difficult game.
“Admittedly we don’t know much about them (KR) but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“It means that you go into games without any fear, no worries about what you are going to be faced with. We have watched a few DVDs of some of their games and they are typical of what you expect from Scandinavian teams — physically strong.”
Arguably the biggest problem Glentoran face is their lack of sharpness at this stage in the year having only returned to pre-season training two weeks ago and played just one game — a 2-0 defeat to Welsh champions The New Saints on Saturday.
“We looked a bit heavy-legged,” admitted Coyle. “It’s difficult for us coming in this early and not being able to get that many games under our belts because very few teams are back to training yet.
“KR are into their season already and there’s no substitute for playing competitive games. All we can do is prepare as best we can and go out there and get a result that keeps the tie alive and hope we are a bit sharper by the time they come to our place next week.”
Coyle also revealed that his input will be minimal, aside from giving out instructions during the 90 minutes.
“It’s Scott’s team, he will pick the side and take the training,” added Coyle. “He probably would have been allowed in the dugout but too many voices can be confusing to players.”