If you can handle the Malmo Ultras, you can handle the crowd expected at Park Hall, Oswestry on Thursday night, says Kofi Balmer.
The 20-year-old defender made the switch from Ballymena United to Larne at the end of the season and is hoping to get a taste of the European action on Thursday.
After recovering from a hamstring injury that marred most of the Mossley man’s season, Balmer played a half against Coleraine during the week and is raring to go against Welsh outfit Bala FC.
The town of Larne is buzzing after the Invermen clinched a berth in European competition for the first time in the club’s history, but the former Sky Blue insists he will not be overawed by the occasion.
Larne will play in the new UEFA Conference League but Balmer had a taste of the action two years ago when Ballymena played and beat NSI Runavik to set up a daunting tie against Swedish giants Malmo.
“We beat Runavik from the Faroe Islands 2-0 on aggregate then played Malmo and lost heavily over the two legs (11-0), but the experience was invaluable to me,” said the stylish young centre-half.
“I remember being out on their pitch before kick-off, in front of thousands of fans and the very noisy Malmo Ultras, and you could hardly hear the person next to you speaking.
“The levels of noise and cheering were deafening but once the first whistle goes you just block it all out and focus solely on the game.
“It was great to be able to play in front of a crowd like that, and I think I handled it okay. I’m buzzing for the game on Thursday now and just hope we can give a good account of ourselves.”
Balmer found the lure of full-time football at Inver Park impossible to refuse and revealed he still harbours hopes of moving across the water.
“I wanted to play full-time football and Ballymena were good enough to let me talk to Larne,” said the U21 international captain.
“I signed a two-year deal and have really enjoyed integrating with the squad, and of course it remains my dream to play across the water.
“I knew Albert Watson from his time at Ballymena and I had played against the majority of the players before, so it was an easy transition for me, everybody has made me feel very welcome.
“But my focus is on Bala now and helping my new team-mates push on as far as we possibly can.”