London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2004-05--> All for 20041021
<-Page <-Team Thu 21 Oct 2004 Feyenoord 3 Hearts 0 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Craig Levein <-auth Stuart Bathgate auth-> Tonny Kolbech Poulsen
[D Kuyt 22] ;[B Goor 58] ;[D Kuyt 83]
1 of 025 ----- E A

Outsider tag suits us, says Levein


CRAIG Levein hopes that his Hearts squad will be written off by their UEFA Cup Group A opponents before a ball is kicked. The coach believes that both Zeljeznicar in last season’s competition and Braga this year were pleased to be drawn against Scottish opposition, and he is confident his side can pull off another upset if any team underestimates them.

The group includes two recent former winners of the competition in Feyenoord and Schalke 04, while Christian Gross’ Basel and Millwall’s conquerors Ferencvaros are also likely to be formidable opponents. Levein, however, far from feeling intimidated by such quality, thinks his team can again rise to the occasion.

"When I first heard the draw I thought it was difficult, but on reflection maybe it’s not as difficult as it could have been," he said yesterday. "But I’m excited about the quality of our opponents. Basel and Ferencvaros are top of the league, Feyenoord are second in their league, and I think Schalke are around seventh, so we’re talking about some high quality sides.

"But anyone who thinks we are just happy to be in the group stages underestimates what our players are all about. Some of our opponents may think we are the diddy team in the group, so we have to send out the signals with a decent performance against Feyenoord in the first game.

"The other teams might have hoped to get us because we are a Scottish side, and not one of the Old Firm. But I hope they do underestimate us, because Braga underestimated us in the last round. If we can get off to a reasonable start and maybe sneak a point in the first game in Rotterdam then I’ll be delighted."

With the top three teams qualifying from each section it may take no more than six points to progress. Levein insisted, though, that he would leave the arithmetic to others, preferring to stress the value of sneaking a result away from home.

"We have to treat it as a four-game league, but it’s difficult to say how many points it will take to qualify through," he added. "But I believe in positive experiences, and we have been strong away from home in our last three European games.

"We’ve had two clean sheets, and a draw in Braga, and we’ve also scored three goals. We’ve always wanted to get into the group stages, so we’ll see how we do."

Hearts drew 0-0 in Sarajevo last year after beating Zeljeznicar 2-0 at home. They then defeated Bordeaux 1-0 in France before a 2-0 loss at home knocked them out of the competition. Last week in Portugal, defending a 3-1 lead from the Murrayfield leg, they drew 2-2 to qualify for the inaugural group stages more comfortably than all but the most wildly optimistic of their fans had thought possible.

As fourth seeds, Hearts will be doing well to take anything out of the first match in Rotterdam, but the Feyenoord midfielder Pascal Boschaart insisted his club would not make the mistake that Levein hopes for.

"We have the highest coefficient and are the top-seeded team, but we must not underestimate anyone," he said.

"Schalke is a top club in Germany and FC Basel did very well in the Champions League recently. I don’t know anything about Ferencvaros, and all I know about Hearts is that the Dutchman Mark de Vries plays there. In any event it’s a nice group and we have a big chance of getting through."

His team-mate Romeo Castelen appeared to know a little bit more about the Edinburgh club. "I expect a lot of Hearts - they are a strong opponent, a typical Scottish team," he said.

Hearts have been allocated a minimum of 1,600 tickets for the Feyenoord match - a figure which could rise to 2,500.

Their allocation for the Basel match is 1,400, and priority in both games will be given to season-ticket holders. Tickets will be issued on a one-per- person basis.

Schalke, who visit Edinburgh in the second round of fixtures, may be at a disadvantage by being the team to sit out the last round. Unless the Germans have already ensured their place in the last 32, Hearts may go into their home game with Ferencvaros knowing that a result could take them through.

But the Hungarian team were the strongest of the eight fifth-seeded teams, and showed in the last round against Millwall that they are capable of coping with the British style of play.

That victory against the FA Cup finalists, however, was marred by crowd violence in Budapest in which four English supporters were hospitalised with stab wounds, and by racist abuse of Millwall’s black players.

Ferencvaros responded to a complaint by Millwall by saying they regretted the behaviour of some fans within the stadium, but could not be held responsible for the actions of others outside. "We wish a quick recovery for the injured and we deeply condemn the scandalous scenes on the public areas, the prevention of which cannot be expected from a football club," the statement read.

"It is not for us to judge how severe the police were against British fans and whether these measures were justified . . .

"On the press conference after the match Ray Wilkins, the coach of Millwall, said that neither the atmosphere of the match, nor the behaviour of the Hungarian fans, were threatening. It is true and very unfortunate that in both matches, there were some fans in both camps, whose behaviour and support cannot be called fair."

One positive thing to arise from that tie is the inside information which Wilkins and Millwall’s head coach Dennis Wise will pass on to Levein.

"I struck up a good relationship with the Millwall boys on our pre-season tour of Canada, so we’ve already started gathering as much information as we can," Levein said.

Taken from the Scotsman

<-Page <-Team Thu 21 Oct 2004 Feyenoord 3 Hearts 0 Team-> Page->
| Home | Contact Us | Credits | © 2004 |