Keith Long and Keith Buckley - Stephen Burke

Europa Conference League Third Qualifying Round First Leg
Tuesday August 3rd, 2021
Aviva Stadium, 7.45pm
Live on LOITV (€10)

Keith Long has done his homework on tonight’s opponents PAOK but says the focus is on Bohemians’ own game-plan and not that of the visitors.

The Bohs manager has encouraged his side to relish the challenge of testing their abilities against a team of great European pedigree, and urged them to be true to themselves.

Long said: “We are facing international players who have been in the Europa League group stages and are used to success at this level.

“The Greek League is not one of the biggest leagues in Europe but it is a very strong league with a big history and tradition with the likes of Olympiakos, Panathinaikos, AEK Athens and PAOK.

“We have given our players as much information as we possibly can without putting the fear of God into them!

“But can’t be overly preoccupied with the opposition. We want to remain true to ourselves and play the way that we want to play.

“There is no point in coming here if we are not prepared to test ourselves, if we just want to shut up shop, get bodies behind the ball and contain and counter.

“We can do all that type of stuff and we still might lose, so we’ve got to try and be true to ourselves, and we want to try and impose ourselves on the opposition.

“We believe we have good technical players who can take command of the ball and look for the ball in tight spaces.
“Obviously PAOK are a highly technical team, so we have to trust and believe in our processes and in what we do.

“We have to believe in our game-plan and the structure we play in. Outside of having the ball, we know what we want to try and do.

“There will be times when we have to absorb pressure and soak it up, but we have to make sure the team is organised.

“But when we have the ball, we have to be able to keep it and play through a press, and try to get our attacking principles and players into the game.

“Imposing ourselves on the opposition will be difficult but that is the challenge for us as a group.

“I shouldn’t be sitting here if I don’t have belief in the team and if I don’t have belief in myself as a manager. That’s the challenge for us.”

Leading the team out once more will be captain Keith Buckley, who dominates today’s newspaper coverage of tonight’s game after the 29-year-old, who has always sought to avoid the limelight and prefers to do his talking on the pitch, gave rare media interviews in the club’s pre-match press confrence yesterday.

The modest captain, making his 302nd club appearance tonight, has always led by example but has driven the team forward to another level in the Europa Conference League qualifier wins against Icelandic side Stjarnan and Luxembourg side Dudelange.
The respect and admiration Long has for his skipper, both on and off the pitch, is clear.

He added: “Where do you start? Fantastic work-rate and work ethic. He is a fantastic fella to have around the place.

“He leads by example, not just on the pitch, but how he behaves off it too.

“Bucko has a full-time job, but that’s neer been an excuse for him. He comes in ready, trains hard and he has improved as a player too.

“He’s in his 30th year now. He has had loads of games under his belt, he had a milestone last week of 300 appearances for the club, which is a huge testament to him and how he looks after himself.

“It is hard to put into words how influential he has been around the group.

“He is our captain, was vice-captain under Derek Pender, and he has been anboslutely integral to everything we have tried to do in my time at the club.”


Promise Omochere (quad) and Stephen Mallon (hip) remain doubts.

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