JACKIE McNAMARA has told the Celtic players their Europa League exploits could tuns into a wonderful adventure.
The right-back was in Martin O’Neill’s side that crashed outy of the Champions League qualifier 16 years when they were beaten on the goals away rule after drawing 3-3 with Swiss outfit Basel.
The Hoops dropped into the UEFA Cup – and went all the way to the memorable meeting with Porto in Seville.
On their way to that dramatic climax in the competition where they so unluckily lost 3-2 in extra-time following Bobo Balde’s red card they overcame Suduva, tomorrow night’s opponents in the first leg play-off in Lithuania.
The Parkhead men won 10-1 on aggregate and embarked upon the glorious trail to the Spanish city with memorable triumphs that included victories over Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers.
McNamara said: “Obviously, the initial disappointment of losing in the Champions League makes it hard.
“It does feel like an anti-climax when you go out because when you have tasted the Champions League that’s always where anyone wants to be, players, fans, everyone.
“But you have to try to make the best of the situation and the Europa League can be a wonderful experience if it goes well.
“Of course, in the beginning it is not glamorous. You are playing teams from Lithuania and they are not household names.
“We had faced the likes of Juventus in the Champions League then had to go and face Suduva, yet look what happened afterwards. I’m not saying Celtic are going to win the Europa League or get to the Final, certainly not the way they are looking at the moment.
“There are a few things they need to sort out defensively before they can start looking too far ahead, but if they can get a run going it can go some way to making up for the Champions League exit.
“There was excitement last season for the Zenit St Petersburg tie tie when Celtic were going for the last eight and the Europa League carries importance these days.
“Just look a couple of seasons back and the importance to Manchester United in them winning it. I’d imagine that even if Celtic do go on a good run in the Europa League they would probably not get a lot of credit because people say it’s all about the Champions League.
“But it’s like everything else. Winning a few games in the Europa League would be a help for them.”