Nobody would have expected Motherwell to finish third last season – so why not ‘dream’ of a Europa League group stage spot?
That’s what captain Declan Gallagher reckons as his side make strides in Europe. After their excellent season last term earned them European football, they’ve made their way to the third qualifying round of Europa League competition with two wins over Northern Irish sides Glentoran and Coleraine.
Whilst the Glens win was a straightforward 5-1 victory, the away trip to Coleraine was anything but. After being pegged back from 2-0 up to 2-2 with 10 men heading into extra time, they won a penalty shootout 3-0, thanks in no small part to the heroics of goalkeeper Trevor Carson.
Now a path to the group stages is clear. First up it’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva in Israel next week, and if they win that, a play-off tie against Viktoria Plzen or Sonderjyske at Fir Park on October 1 comes next.
People might not give Scottish sides much respect in Europe, but he’s willing to dream of an incredible feat.
“You have to dream. Everything is a dream in football,” said Gallagher. “Probably a lot of people said last season that Motherwell getting to third place and into Europe was a dream.
“You have to keep dreaming. Without ambition, there’s no point in football. We have to be ambitious, believe in ourselves to go over to Israel and get a result. We will be the underdog but hopefully that works in our favour.
“I have seen a lot of people say our performance was poor. The first half we dominated the game and should have probably been out of sight. But they got two soft penalty claims and that would change any game regardless of the opposition and the standard of the pitch.
“To go down to 10 men and show the character we did, I think we deserve a wee bit more respect for how we got through that game in the end. It’s a knockout competition and all that matters is you get through to the next round. Performances don’t matter if you win the game.
“It would be massive for the club financially and also for the reputation of Scottish football to get someone other than Rangers or Celtic into a European competition.
“You look at it, it’s the Europa League and it’s the best of countries from all over Europe but people turn round and say ‘it’s a part-time team, they should be beating them. It’s always negative. It’s never Motherwell did well, they’ve now got a big tie against a good team in Be’er Sheva.
“Before every game, every team in Scotland is written off and there’s no backing for Scottish teams to do well. I think if we get that belief and we get the backing of every fan in Scotland then Scottish clubs will progress, they will get better.”