Northern Ireland side Crusaders are revelling in a potentially money-spinning Europa League draw.
The Belfast club have been paired with the winners of the first qualifying round game between Fulham and NSI Runavik of the Faroe Islands. Assuming the Premier League side come through that tie, the second round game could see Northern Ireland internationals Aaron Hughes and Chris Baird face the league and cup runners-up at Seaview in July. Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter was delighted with the draw, especially as the club are in a financially challenging position:
You can’t really predict anything in football, but assuming that Fulham progress it’s the biggest occasion for the club since the Liverpool games in the 1970s. It’s a match that will attract a bumper crowd and hopefully we can pack them all in for what should be a really special occasion for everyone connected with the club.
It’s a huge thing for an Irish League club to take on an English Premier League side with their new manager Martin Jol keen to get off to a good start and top quality players in whatever side they put out. They have two Northern Ireland players in Aaron Hughes and Chris Baird and strikers like Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora and for us to welcome them would be special.
It’s a competitive clash between two very different sides, that rarely happens in today’s game and I’m so thrilled for the players who will be excited and the supporters who will want to see it