Magilton has hart for battle
ROVERS assistant draws on experience for Spurs test.
JIM MAGILTON had a particularly welcome and useful piece of baggage when the Shamrock Rovers assistant manager and the rest of the Hoops squad checked into Dublin airport earlier today to head off on their latest venture in European football.
The former Northern Ireland man is the only member of the Rovers party who knows what it's like to go to White Hart Lane and win, a relic of his playing days with Southampton.
“I don't remember winning at White Hart Lane all that much, but I did win there. I played there with Southampton once when we won in 1994, 2-1, Le Tissier scored both. It's a great place to play your football and it will be an experience for our players,” says Magilton, who came off football's version of the dole queue to help out manager Michael O'Neill following the resignation of Trevor Croly as assistant earlier this season.
The reason why Magilton is not overcome with confidence is that he's seen the other side of ties like the Tottenham-Rovers Europa League game tomorrow night, when the Big Boys of the Premier League swat away the annoying fly from down the divisions.
“I have been in positions like this as a manager as well, going to a big Premier League club in a cup tie,” says Magilton, who managed Championship teams Ipswich Town (2006-09) and QPR (2009).
“I took a team to Chelsea on two occasions in the Cups and we lost both times. I tried to prepare the team as well as possible but we weren't good enough on the day and Chelsea beat us.
“We don't need to motivate these players at Rovers. It's a competitive game away to a Premier League team. If anything we'll need to put the reins on them and slow them down a bit. They have to be sharp and have full concentration.”
Magilton will then draw on all the resources from his own playing career, which took in spells as a Premier League player with Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday, to help prepare the Rovers players for the big test in London, and his aim is to not over-exaggerate the size of the task.
“We will tell the players not to worry about the reputations of the Tottenham players or what they are worth on the transfer market.
“If our lads went into the game with that attitude, of thinking ‘Oh, he's worth twenty million' then it will inhibit how they do in the game.
“If you just heighten the pressure by telling the players how good the opposition are then it might intimidate them,” Magilton told the Herald.
“If we went through the Spurs squad with our players, it would probably scare the life out of them, so you don't go down that road. We will go and prepare as best we can, as we have done all along.
“We will tell the players that they have earned the right to do this, to come to Tottenham and play in a big European tie. Of course they have to work hard on the night, they will have to withstand a great deal of pressure.
“I went to see Spurs against Stoke in the Carling Cup last week so I have a good idea what to expect. You know that you'll get from Spurs, they will keep the ball and wait for an opening to come along. They have players who will be patient with the ball and who will hurt you when they get the chance. So we have to stand up to that.”
One thing in Rovers' favour tommorow is the motivation of the opponents. When the Hoops went to Belgrade to play Partizan, they were up against a side for whom a place in the Europa League group stages was a must, whereas Spurs – like Birmingham City and Stoke City, who have moaned all along this campaign about having to play annoying games in places like Ukraine (not even in Europe, according to the Stoke manager) – do not see the Europa League as a priority.
But it's still a big ask for Rovers, tomorrow playing their 48th competitive game of the season.
“It's the same scenario as going to Belgrade to play Partizan, where no one gave us a hope going out there, so we will go to London with the same approach we had in Serbia – to be prepared to take an onslaught, to take the pressure, to accept that you will be without the ball for long periods but then to have the courage to get on the ball when it's an option and to use the ball well,” Magilton explained.
“Against Rubin Kazan we just didn't play well enough when we had the ball. We did have chances and we did have possession but didn't work the ball well enough.
“Rubin were a very good side, make no mistake about that, but I think we gave them too much respect.
“If we beat Spurs it will be up there with the win in Belgrade. It's a big ask but these guys have shown that they are very good under pressure, especially away from home.
“They won in Estonia and Serbia – they were exceptional in Belgrade – and they played well in Denmark.
“So there is always trepidation. If Tottenham go on a roll then anything could happen, but if we play to our strengths, I know we can walk away with our heads held high.”