30/08/2002

Call for IFA to help in Euro match preparation

A leading Irish League footballer has called for help from the Irish Football Association in their preparations for European competitions.

Linfield's Russell Kelly made the call after his side were knocked out of this year's Uefa Cup 5-1 on aggregate against Norwegian team Stabaek.

Since 1990, Irish League clubs have won only six out of nearly 80 European matches while the last team to reach the first round proper of the European Cup was Linfield back in 1984.

However, Kelly told the BBC that the IFA "could perhaps help us out a little bit in our preparation for the games". This fact was put into perspective in that Stabaek are currently in the middle of their domestic season while Linfield have only played two league games and a handful of pre-season friendlies.

Kelly added: "The problem is that it is hard to get quality opposition to play friendlies against to help prepare us for playing against full-time professionals in Europe."

Kelly's point was further vindicated when Glentoran also crashed out of the Uefa Cup after a heavy defeat in Poland on Thursday night. The Glens were beaten 4-0 by Wisla Krakow, thus going out of the competition 6-0 on aggregate after being beaten 2-0 in Belfast two weeks ago.

The financial incentive for success in European competition was highlighted in the 1990's when Linfield were narrowly beaten 4-3 on aggregate against Danish side, FC Copenhagen. If the Blues had held on to the advantage gained from their 3-0 home victory then they would have secured a money spinning first round match against Italian giants AC Milan.

Just a few minutes away from reaching the next round – the referee allowed an additional six minutes of injury time despite protestations from the Linfield bench – the Blues crashed out of the competition losing 4-0 in the away leg.

(MB)

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