Motherwell skipper Declan Gallagher called for Scottish football fans to give the country’s teams more backing as he dreams of the Europa League group stages.
Well survived a scare in Coleraine on Thursday after letting slip a two-goal lead following two penalty awards but came through extra-time with 10 men before Trevor Carson saved all three penalties he faced in the shoot-out.
The Steelmen’s reward is a trip to locked-down Israel to face Hapoel Beer-Sheva, who needed two stoppage-time goals to overcome Albanians Laci.
Friday’s draw subsequently handed Motherwell the carrot of a Fir Park play-off against Viktoria Plzen, who have won five of the last 10 Czech titles, or Danish Cup holders SonderjyskE – and Gallagher is aiming high.
“The fact that it’s a one-legged tie, it’s like a cup final, anything can happen,” the Scotland international said.
“I think it’s one of the better draws we could have asked for but it’s still two very good teams, and three including Beer-Sheva. So it’s going to be a hard ask but you can always dream.
“You have to. When you come in and want to play football, everything is a dream.
“A lot of people last season would probably have said Motherwell getting third place and into European football again was a dream. You have to keep dreaming because, without ambition, what’s the point in playing football?
“We have to believe in ourselves and go to Israel and try and get a result. We will be the underdogs but hopefully that works in our favour.”
No Scottish club outside of Glasgow has reached a group stage since Aberdeen 13 years ago but Gallagher feels the country should back itself more.
The Dons, who host Motherwell on Sunday, joined Rangers, Celtic and the Lanarkshire side in the third qualifying round with victory over Viking Stavanger.
On the prospect of reaching the groups, Gallagher said: “It would be absolutely massive for the club financially and for Scotland’s reputation.
“It would be a wee bit of a change to Scottish football and how people see us if we could make the group stages.
“Aberdeen got a great result away from home and it’s massive for Scottish football that all the clubs do well. That’s four teams still in European competition and if you look at all the ties we have all got, a really good chance of progressing into the play-off stages.
“Scottish football gets criticised quite a lot from our fans. We need to start being more positive and showing the world that Scotland is a proud nation and we deserve to be in these competitions with more than just Celtic and Rangers.
“The Europa League is the best of countries from all over Europe but people say ‘it’s a part-time team, they should be beating them, Motherwell were rubbish’. It’s not ‘Motherwell got through on a poor pitch with bad decisions’. It’s always negative.
“You never see that down in England, you never see them being negative about their teams or their players. They are always the best and that breeds confidence for English teams.
“I don’t feel Scottish football has that. Before every game, any team in Scotland is written off and there’s no backing for Scottish teams to do well.
“If we get that belief and the backing of every team in Scotland then Scottish clubs will progress and get better.”
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