Rhys Marshall admits caution is the buzzword ahead of Glentoran’s UEFA Europa Conference League clash with The New Saints at The Oval.
Although manager Mick McDermott has done his homework on the Welsh Premier League side, former Shamrock Rovers man Marshall insists early European rounds have the habit of turning up tales of the unexpected.
The East Belfast outfit, who booked their passport to Europe courtesy of finishing in third place in the Danske Bank Premiership, negotiated a qualifying round last summer by beating HB Torshavn of the Faroe Islands.
However, the sending off of midfielder Seanan Clucas proved to be their downfall in defeat to Motherwell.
“We must have a chance against TNS, but we’ll need to be on it from the start,” says Marshall.
“We’ve watched them on video, but it’s difficult to tell what standard they are really at.
“I played against TNS in a friendly in my Glenavon days, but that was a few years back. Obviously, the side has changed a lot since then.
“Back then, they appeared to be of the same standard as the Irish League. They are consistently competing in Europe, so that says all we need to know. They only lost one game in their domestic season, so they are a good side.”
Marshall wasn’t involved in Glentoran’s Euro adventure last season, but he was in the Rovers squad that earned a dream tie against AC Milan.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get a game — I was on the bench for both matches,” he says. “We got through the first round against IIves from Finland, albeit on a penalty shoot-out, which earned us a tie against AC Milan.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t even get on for five minutes. It would have been nice to have had that on my CV.”
Marshall reckons his team can benefit from the short summer break, adding: “We got two weeks off, it felt like two days. It meant we didn’t come back to a full-blown pre-season programme.
“Since the boys all got back together again, we’ve been working hard — it felt like we’d never been away.
“We have home advantage on Thursday, so it would be nice if we could get a result to take over there. We’ve a fantastic squad. We’ve now been together for some time, we all know each other better.
“For me, it’s one of the best in the League. When you look at our bench during games, it’s frightening the people we have sitting there. They would certainly start for any other side in the League.
“We’ve all been together for six months, so this season will be interesting. Obviously we have been toying with team formations and stuff, so it will be exciting to see what system the manager will go with for the new season. Getting through a round in the Conference League would certainly be a massive boost for everyone.”
Having moved to The Oval in January, Marshall believes it could be a big year for the club.
He says: “I think the League will be even more demanding this season — it’s getting better every year.
“I know Glentoran didn’t get a good start last season and that probably caught up with the club at the end of the season. We also had a few disappointing results late on, losing at Ballymena United and my old club Glenavon. That set us back at such a crucial time.
“When we faced Linfield in the first game of the split, if we had won, the gap would have been cut to four points, but we could only manage to draw.
“You need to be consistent throughout the campaign. It’s something we must learn from.”