MOTHERWELL’S recent run of European qualifications is quite an incredible achievement and truly unprecedented within the context of their history.
The Lanarkshire club, who didn’t play on the continent until 1991, are now going into their sixth European campaign from the past seven seasons. Sadly, despite those opportunities, they’ve never made it past the first round or qualifying stages.
On this occasion they at least give themselves a great chance to build some momentum. Stjarnan have been one of the better clubs in Iceland over the past couple of years, but they still reside from a country with an overall population smaller than Edinburgh, and are underdogs going into this tie.
Ahead of Thursday’s first leg encounter we’ll publish a tactical preview looking at the game. Until then here are six facts about Motherwell’s opponents to pacify your appetite.
• Stjarnan hail from Garðabær, which literally translates as “Garden Town” and is home to around 13,000 people. Despite such a modest population they pull in an average of 1,000 supporters at every game, though this pales in comparison to Motherwell’s average of 4,900 supporters from a 35,000 populace in the town.
• Stjarnan are known around the globe for being the team who performed a series of inventive celebrations that spanned several viral videos. Some of their more notable efforts include ‘the human bicycle’, ‘giving birth’ and ‘catching a fish’, and can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zC8XanuhOss
• Aside from this year’s inaugural Fotbolti.net cup, Stjarnan have never won a national competition. They have, however, finished runner-up in the Icelandic cup in each of the last two years, losing to KR in 2012 and Fram last season.
• The current Sjarnan side are sitting second in the Icelandic league after 10 games played, two points off the top. The league season runs from early May to mid-October.
• After Stjarnan eliminated Welsh side Bangor City in the previous round, there was a curious quote attributed to Bangor manager Neville Powell. The Welshman stated that Stjarnan are a good technical side with “a lot of foreign players in their team”. In fact, only five members of the 2014 squad are from outwith Iceland, though this does include current top goalscorer Jeppe Hansen who is Danish. Motherwell, in comparison, have eight non-Scots in their first team squad.
• One of the more experienced and well known members of the team is Icelandic international Veigar Páll Gunnarsson. The 34-year old is notorious for being at the heart of a controversial transfer between Norwegian clubs Stabaek and Valerenga. The story goes that Stabaek turned down a 5 million krone offer for the player from Rosenberg but accepted a 1 million offer from Valerenga. The difference was that Valerenga were also purchasing the rights to buy a Stabaek youth player, in the future, for 4 million. Since there was a 50 per cent sell on clause in Gunnarsson’s contract from his previous club Nancy, the deal was more attractive to Stabaek. However, the amount of money paid for a youngster in Norway was deemed very excessive and the two clubs were found guilty of collusion and both fined. Gunnarsson denied any knowledge of the intricacies in the deal.