herald

Sunday 22 October 2017

Fagan aims to finish the job

Warsaw hero Chris insists Saints in no mood for moral win over Legia

IT WAS ONE of the best-ever results achieved by an Irish club on European soil.

But Chris Fagan, the hero of Warsaw, knows in his heart that last week's 1-1 draw with Legia Warsaw in Poland will mean nothing if the Saints exit the Champions League tonight and miss out on a date with Celtic in the next round.

The motivation is not lacking: a massive payday awaits the club if they can get through to play the SPL champions, giving the patient club owner Garrett Kelleher something of a return for his investment in the club, and offer the Pats players the biggest stage of their careers.

And though we live in an Irish football world where moral victories are prized for decades, Fagan insists that the players cannot allow themselves wallow in the glory of that draw which shocked the home fans in Poland and instead have to finish the job and finish Legia's European season, something which would almost certainly finish off Henning Berg as Legia boss.

"Apart from our own supporters, nobody will remember that 1-1 draw if we don't get into the next round," Fagan told The Herald.

AMBITIOUS

"We are ambitious as players and as a club, and it's all about getting into the next round of the Champions League. You only have the really good experiences in football when you win, so for me all that counts is a place in the third round and the chance to play someone like Celtic.

"Even from my own point of view, I can't say that scoring the goal out there in Warsaw was a career highlight as we didn't win the game. It was a great experience, even though the stadium was only half full the 17,000 fans who were there made it a real occasion, and our own fans were great as well."

Fagan seems to thrive in European football and has a strike rate - five goals from 10 games in UEFA competition - that other strikers can only envy and is s now in joint fourth place in the all-time scorers chart for League of Ireland players in Europe.

"I have been lucky to get a few chances in the games I played and managed to stick five of them away but I always enjoyed the European matches," he says.

"They are easy games to get yourself up for, it's different from the normal stuff of league and FAI Cup matches, it's great as a player to test yourself against clubs from places like Bosnia and Germany."

As Henning Berg knows well, a lot is at stake tonight and failure to qualify for the third round would leave a massive hole in Legia's budget for the season. As Celtic await in the next round, it's tempting for the Saints players to dream, but Fagan says that those green and white shirts are out of sight and out of mind.

"To be totally honest, Celtic hasn't been mentioned in our dressing room, we can't afford to start thinking about that until we have played Legia," he says.

"It would be a massive mistake for us to start talking about Celtic, our minds are on this game tonight. We will have plenty of time to think about Celtic tomorrow and for a whole week, if we are through.

"We know from last week's game how tough it will be tonight, it will be a 90 minute slog, we all have to put in a shift and take the chances when they come.

"If we are in the next round we can enjoy the prospect of Celtic coming to Dublin but that's not for now," added Fagan.

Pats trained in Tallaght Stadium last night as boss Buckley put his mind to his tactical approach and formation.

With Killian Brennan and Ger O'Brien likely to be declared fit, Buckley has the luxury of naming an unchanged side.

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