Often Partisan


Europe. It’s been a long old time since Blues were last in Europe, and it’s the first time we’ve actually qualified for continental competition. Most bluenoses could be forgiven for not knowing what’s going to happen – I mean, it’s not like any of us expected it. I thought I’d give a bit of a rundown.

We’ll be starting our European adventure in the Europa League, third qualifying round. Thanks to my good friend @connorcam, I’ve got estimated dates of 28th July and 11th August for when we’ll be making our appearance in this round – which is before the start of the season. Thus it’ll be even more imperative that Blues get their transfer business done early. Pre-season is going to be a tricky one; whilst China may again be on the cards I don’t think it’ll be anything nearly as long as it was this season.

So who do we get to play? In the main, our fellow qualifiers haven’t been decided; not least because of the two rounds prior to the one we start in. The draw is seeded; although we don’t have any European experience the fact we play in the strongest league in Europe (according to the current co-efficients) might see us get seeded in this round. That would enable us to avoid some of the bigger guns; we could get lucky and play someone of the ilk of FK Qarabag of Azerbaijan – although the prospect of going to watch a game in Nagorno-Karabakh doesn’t really appeal.

If we manage to get past that round, then there is another one in August (the playoff round), where we would have the very real prospect of meeting a team dumped out of Champions League qualifying – get past that and we’d be in the group stage proper. Should we do the impossible and make it all the way to the final, it will be held in Bucharest, Romania.

I’m hoping our European adventure will give us two things – exposure and money. Exposure as a good Premier League team; a team that players will want to join and a bigger brand name in China and money in the form of prizemoney for winning matches, and TV revenue (Channel Five on a thursday night anyone?). To a team with a turnover that isn’t great this could be really good for our balance sheet; a chance to push up advertising revenue, to push up sponsorship revenue and a chance to bring in a whole new generation of fans. Success breeds success – the club have to build on it.

Having seen many Europa league games on TV played to half full stadiums, I hope us Bluenoses can buck the trend and get down St Andrews to support our team. I’ve dreamt my whole life of silverware, and of night games against the giants of continental competition. I know that times have been tough, but if people can make an effort to go to one or two extra games each we’ll sell out every week. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the team have delivered. It’s down to us to back them. 2011 is already a very special year for bluenoses, 2012 could be even better.

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