Sligo Rovers manager John Russell. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
second leg

Sligo Rovers boss responds to being labelled 'minnows' by the Scottish media

John Russell says that tag can be used as ammunition in tomorrow’s Europa Conference League qualifier at home to Motherwell.

SLIGO ROVERS MANAGER John Russell believes his side can use the ‘minnows’ tag as ammunition as they prepare to take on Scottish Premiership side Motherwell in the second leg of their Europa Conference League second qualifying round tie.

The Bit O’Red hold a 1-0 advantage following their victory at Fir Park last week, with that result leading to the Steelmen being subjected to fierce criticism from the press in Scotland.

Rovers will still be underdogs heading into the home leg, despite a comfortable win last week.

Russell’s side were labelled ‘minnows’ by the Scottish media in the wake of that defeat, and he believes his players can use this as ammunition.

The Galway native said: “For me, it’s a thing to drive you on. It’s ammunition, for all the players they would have picked up that stuff, it’s something we can use and channel in the right way.

“You’re always going to be labelled like that when you’re playing teams from the UK, they probably are reflecting on the league 15-20 years ago, it has come on leaps and bounds since then.

“It’s all fully professional, a lot of these teams are signing our players so it’s funny when you see the press come out with those comments. We can use that as motivation.

We’ve had managers from the UK come over here and make comments as well about pub leagues and all this kind of stuff.

“We know what we’re doing here. Yes the league can get better, facilities can get better but the product that’s out on the pitch, whether it’s us, Shamrock Rovers or Derry, there’s top players, when you put them in the right settings, we look the part. And I thought we looked the part in Motherwell.”

the-sligo-team The Bit O'Red team that won at Fir Park last week. Craig Watson / INPHO Craig Watson / INPHO / INPHO

Rovers’ record in Europe is, by all accounts, a poor one. Prior to their victory over Bala Town in the first round, they had only ever won three games in Europe and had only progressed through a round once.

Last week’s away win over Motherwell was their second European win of the campaign, and Rovers are on the cusp of history as a win on Thursday would be the first time they have progressed through two rounds.

But, they’re facing a Motherwell side under severe pressure.

Manager Graham Alexander has had to answer fierce criticism following that defeat last Thursday, but Russell says his side will be well prepared for what their opponents will bring to the table.

graham-alexander Motherwell boss Graham Alexander in the dugout. Craig Watson / INPHO Craig Watson / INPHO / INPHO

The 500 or so Rovers fans who made the trip to Scotland last Thursday witnessed a special night, and the former midfielder hopes that there is another big performance in his players.

“We had a super performance last week, we played a team who on paper have players perceived as better than ours,” he added. 

“They’re playing in a league that’s perceived better than the League of Ireland so they’ll be hurting after last week’s result, and even the way the game finished, the way their fans reacted to the result and their performance, they will be a different animal coming here.

“The focus for us is performing well on the night. We’ll be underdogs even though we’re winning the tie 1-0, Motherwell will be hungry to try and turn the game around.

“We’ll be well prepared and prepped to deal with all of that. It’s about embracing the occasion for our players. Our players want to play in Europe, they want to play in these big occasions, and I think it’s important that they come into the game feeling confident.

For us as Irish players to play on a Thursday night, knowing you’re playing top teams and an opportunity to progress, for your own career and for the club financially, to get money to progress the club on and off the pitch. It’s huge.

“We get bigger crowds, it’s a sell-out, we could probably sell another 700-1,000 tickets. That’s the beauty, that’s the special occasion of European nights. The travelling support last week in Motherwell, they witnessed a great night, a great performance and fabulous goal from Aidan Keena and hopefully there will be another performance like that to come.”

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