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Craig Levein <-auth Paul Kiddie auth-> Tonny Kolbech Poulsen
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Andy: Hearts can impress


HEARTS star Andy Webster today sent a UEFA Cup rallying call to his team-mates, telling them: Let’s prove we can live with the big boys.

The 22-year-old has blossomed into one of the country’s top defenders since moving to Tynecastle from Arbroath and will be a key figure as the Jambos take on Dutch giants Feyenoord in Rotterdam tonight.

Alongside skipper Steven Pressley, the centre-half will form the spine of the visitors’ rearguard in the imposing De Kuip stadium as the curtain goes up on the new group stage of the tournament.

Craig Levein’s side has been drawn in arguably the toughest group with Schalke, Basel and Ferencvaros joining Feyenoord and Hearts in the battle for the three qualifying places.

It is a huge task facing the Gorgie outfit but as they have shown before - most notably against Braga in the previous round - they are at their best when written off.

Having done magnificently to now be rubbing shoulders with the cream of Europe, Webster insists the players are determined to make the most of the opportunity.

"I know nothing is expected from us from people outwith the club," he said. "But from our point of view as professional footballers we want to prove ourselves on this stage.

"We have earned the opportunity to go out and try to impress and that’s what we intend to do.

"We will be testing ourselves against some of Europe’s best teams over the next few weeks and it is a challenge we are all relishing."

Having already dumped the Portuguese aces out of the competition and shocked Bordeaux in France last year, Levein’s men are revelling in their European adventures.

The steep learning curve continues in De Kuip, with Ruud Gullit’s in-form Feyenoord strong favourites to open Group A with a comfortable victory.

The bigger they are, though, the harder they fall and Webster insists the Dutch giants’ reputation will count for nothing once Danish official Tonny Poulsen gets the action under way.

"There is no doubt that Feyenoord are a quality side and a team full of good players but we have faced quality sides in the past and done well," said Webster.

"Obviously we will have to be wary to a certain extent but this game is not something we should fear.

"The boss has been to see Feyenoord in action and has shown us videos of them. We know a bit about them and there is no denying they are a class act.

"Gullit was also a great player in his time and is now doing well in management but we have nothing to fear tonight. Reputations count for nothing out on the park and when you come up against top quality opposition, nine times out of ten you raise your game and do well.

"That is what we will be trying to do tonight."

Webster has hardly had a minute to catch his breath this season due to World Cup qualifiers with Scotland in addition to domestic and European action with Hearts.

Tonight will be his 18th game of an already hectic season but you won’t find the Gorgie stopper complaining. "The club games are a bit different from the international scene where you go into matches carrying the nation’s hopes on your shoulders," he said.

"There tends to be a bit more focus on those matches by the fans and the media.

"But these games with Hearts are also vitally important and we want to enjoy the occasions. I have played quite a few games already this season but I certainly don’t mind. I suppose it comes with the territory and means I am not playing too badly.

"The games have been coming thick and fast over the past few weeks but I’d rather be involved in all these kinds of matches than sitting at home having to watch them on the television."

Taken from the Scotsman

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