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Craig Levein <-auth Paul Kiddie auth-> Tonny Kolbech Poulsen
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15 of 025 ----- E A

Maybury to give a Rotterdam good run for money

Paul Kiddie

THE last time Alan Maybury set foot on Dutch soil he helped the Republic of Ireland to one of the year’s shock results - now the Hearts star is aiming for another upset in Rotterdam tonight.

The defender played a vital role as Brian Kerr’s unfancied side inflicted defeat on Holland in the Amsterdam ArenA in June, the first time the hosts had ever lost a game in the new stadium.

Boss Dick Advocaat had fielded a full strength side including the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Patrick Kluivert, Jaap Stam and Edgar Davids in his final warm-up match before the Euro 2004 opener against Germany. But Robbie Keane scored the only goal of the game that night as the Irish succeeded where the likes of France and Brazil had failed.

It was a memorable note for Maybury to finish his season on and as he prepares to go into battle this evening against Feyenoord in the UEFA Cup, the former Leeds United full-back is eyeing another Dutch masterpiece.

The Jambos take on Ruud Gullit’s league leaders at De Kuip in their opening match in Group A tonight and although the odds are stacked against the men from Tynecastle, Maybury just has to look back to those 90 minutes in Amsterdam to know that anything is possible in a one-off situation.

"Holland had a really strong team out for that game against us but we pulled off a great result," he said.

"It is the stadium the Dutch normally take their games to if they are needing a win and we were delighted to become the first side to beat them at the new ground.

"I don’t think many people gave us a chance back then and it will be the same tonight against Feyenoord. But that doesn’t bother us and we’re going into the match looking to get a good result."

Much has been made of the hostile reception from the notorious Feyenoord fans which awaits the players but Maybury insists that Hearts will not melt in the red-hot atmosphere.

Gullit’s outfit will go into the match with confidence sky-high having moved into joint top spot in the first division alongside PSV following the away win over Roda at the weekend, a game watched by Hearts boss Craig Levein and backroom coach Gary Kirk.

With just 2500 tickets having been allocated for travelling Jambos, the Gorgie faithful will be hugely outnumbered at kick-off.

Having sampled first hand the passion of the Dutch supporters during the Republic’s shock victory, Maybury is well aware of what lies in store tonight.

However, the former Leeds United defender is convinced the electric atmosphere will not adversely affect the Tynecastle side.

Levein may have one of Scotland’s most successful young squads at his disposal but, insists Maybury, the players have become accustomed to the type of evening awaiting them in De Kuip after regular visits to a packed Parkhead and Ibrox.

"There could be something like 50,000 inside the ground when we face Feyenoord but there is no way we will be overawed," he said.

"We may have a lot of young players but they know what it is like to play in front of 60,000 passionate fans at Celtic Park or a packed Ibrox. I am confident the crowd won’t be a factor for us.

"We are all looking forward to this match and the rest of the group games. We did well to get to this stage and deserved to be here and we are going to enjoy it."

Having helped Hearts send Braga spinning out of the competition with a superb performance in Portugal last month, the Irishman watched with more than a little interest as the draw for the inaugural group stages unfolded in Switzerland.

As well as Feyenoord, the Jambos face another tough away tie against Basel, while Bundesliga aces Schalke and Hungarian cracks Ferencvaros will visit Murrayfield before Christmas.

It is widely regarded as a "Group of Death" and Maybury is the first to admit the draw could have been kinder.

"When the group came out we realised it was probably one of the toughest we could have got as they are all top quality sides," he said.

"Having to face Feyenoord away is a really tough start for us as, like the Dutch nature, they will be very hard working with excellent technical ability.

"These group games are slightly different now in as much as they are not played over two legs. We will want to sit in and keep it tight early on as we don’t want to be chasing the game too soon but having said that in these matches you can afford to be a bit more positive away from home."

Levein has masterminded some stunning triumphs in the UEFA Cup despite being a managerial novice when it comes to European campaigns.

The second leg of the Braga tie last month was just his sixth game on the big stage after taking the reins in Gorgie nearly four years ago and, impressively, he has just one defeat to his name - the 2-0 loss to Bordeaux at Tynecastle last season which rendered meaningless the magnificent 1-0 win which the Jambos carved out in France.

It’s a proud record which is about to come under the most severe pressure in Rotterdam but Maybury is pinning his faith on his manager to come up with the goods again.

"We have a game plan for these matches and have received some criticism in the past for it (most notably from Braga boss Jesualdo Fereira).

"We play a certain way but have managed to record some decent results both at home and on our travels," he said.

"I am sure our supporters won’t care how we play as long as we get the results which can take us through from the group. We have a chance with three out of five teams progressing and are determined to give it our best shot.

"It’s a bonus to be involved in the UEFA Cup group stages but we are all delighted to be part of it. This is something you would far rather be involved in than not. This is a new set-up for the tournament and everyone at the club is really looking forward to everything which is ahead of us. The gaffer was over watching Feyenoord at the weekend, he had a number of videos of them in action and our preparations have been spot-on as usual for the game. It’s going to be very difficult but hopefully we can bring back a good result."

Taken from the Scotsman

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