Rovers hold no fear of Rubin
Hoops defender Sives says big tests have boosted their belief
WHEN THEY cross that white line at 6pm in Tallaght Stadium tonight, Shamrock Rovers and Rubin Kazan are just two football teams trying to get off to a good start in the first game of the Europa League group stages.
But of course there's more than 2,000 miles between Kazan and Tallaght, as these clubs are worlds apart.
As Rubin's Turkmenistan-born coach Kurban Berdeyev looks at his squad in the team hotel before the game today, he can gaze upon the face of Brazilian forward Carlos Eduardo and decide whether or not he's going to start the game, even though the Brazil international cost the Russian club an astonishing €20m.
That money wouldn't just buy you the entire Shamrock Rovers squad and club: hell, Enda Kenny would probably hand over all of Tallaght, half of south Dublin and the Sugarloaf for twenty million yo-yos.
The only player in the Shamrock Rovers squad who cost a transfer fee was Gary Twigg, a €15,000 purchase from Brechin City. Doing business at the close of the transfer window last month meant, for Rovers, the signing on a free transfer of Jim Paterson and Rohan Ricketts.
And Rubin? Well they shook out the piggy bank and found the €13m needed to sign Finnish brothers Roman and Alexei Eremenko, even though Roman is cup-tied for the Europa League.
Rovers are a club for whom being in the group stages of the Europa League is the biggest achievement in their history -- for Rubin it's something of an annoyance because they're not at the top table in the Champions League.
So on paper it's a mis-match but this bunch of Rovers players have been in tough spots and big battles before and come out unscathed.
That's why the Rovers squad, who trained at the Tallaght Stadium last night, feel they have nothing to fear and lots to gain.
"Rubin are just a massive club, their squad has something like 15 internationals and they can spend millions on just one player," says Rovers' Scottish-born defender Craig Sives.
"We know Rubin have Champions League experience from last season -- but then again so did Partizan Belgrade and FC Copenhagen and we dealt with them ok, so we have to put in a similar display and play the same way we have been set up in Europe.
"The formation we play in Europe suits us and hopefully it'll be good enough tonight," says Sives, admitting that the club's preparation for the European tie has not been idea due to the sheer number of games, most recently a Dublin derby in the league only last Monday.
"We didn't even give a thought to Rubin until Tuesday, after the St Pats game. The next game is always your most important one so it's only in the last couple of days, that St Pats was out of the way, when we could think about Europe again, we had been focused on the league games."
Coverage of Rovers in Ireland is at an all-time high, but due to their presence in the group stages, the Dublin side can really catch the eye of Europe now.
Twelve clubs who have won European trophies (including former European Cup winners Celtic, Steaua Bucharest and PSV) are in the Europa League this season but so are the Hoops of Dublin, and Sives knows that this next batch of games is a chance for these players to make a real name for themselves, whatever happens to the brand of Shamrock Rovers FC.
"We have six games in Europe now, a lot of the boys are out of contract and you never know who is watching the matches. Enda Stevens has got an unbelievable move to the Premier League, possibly on the back of his European performances, so who knows what could happen for the rest of the squad," says the former Hearts man.
"Maybe people in Scotland will see that we're in Europe -- me and Twiggy are the Scots in the squad here -- so we must be doing something right.
"Teams back home didn't really want to take a chance on us but Rovers did and now we're getting rewards. "It's a challenge," Sives reflects. "But I think this club, and these players, like a challenge."