Stephen Robinson is no stranger to the Showgrounds – but he’s hoping for happy memories on his return to Coleraine with Motherwell.
Last time Robinson was at this ground, he was a coach for the Northern Ireland U21s as a mass brawl broke out in a game with Mexico, resulting in four red cards. Now he’ll take the Steelmen into a Europa League second round qualifier against the Bannsiders.
Motherwell haven’t been in this competition since 2014 and progressed to this stage with a 5-1 win over another Northern Irish side, Glentoran. With a third round trip to Albanian or Israeli opposition waiting for the winner, there is a massive chance for both sides to secure a famous win.
Whilst there’s a part-time and full-time gap between the sides, Robinson knows it’ll be difficult. But his players need no extra motivation ahead of the meeting on Northern Ireland’s north coast.
“Anything is achievable, and ties being one leg increases the chances of smaller teams going through,” said Robinson. “I would class us as one of the smaller teams in Europe as well, so we are hoping to take advantage of that just as much as Oran (Kearney) will be.
“It would be absolutely fantastic to be in the third round, but this will be a difficult game as Northern Ireland football is now being seen as a decent force in Europe. What Linfield have done and what Coleraine have done, I think it is fantastic.
“Obviously being from Northern Ireland I am fairly patriotic and proud, and I’m delighted to see the progress. However, as far as Motherwell are concerned, we have never actually got this far so it is a big incentive to win.
“There are huge incentives financially for the clubs and huge incentives for the players. It will be a tough game. We never underestimated Glentoran either as they had a lot of players that I worked with.
“We are well aware of the threats. Coleraine have some experienced boys that have been there and done it and been around the block. They will have good game knowledge, so we will have to be very much up for it and we will have to take our game to Coleraine.
“We will be favourites to win the game and we will have a lot of the ball, but we will need to have an end product. Against Glentoran the lesson was that we had to be patient. We had boys running themselves into the ground and they were disciplined and organised.
“It might not be the first 15 minutes that you win the game, we will need to show a lot of patience and persevere with our beliefs.”