Why European football is so important to Jack Ross and Hibs

There are people at Hibs who have spent a lot of time and energy planning for Thursday night’s European match, but manager Jack Ross has spent even longer dreaming of being involved on such a stage.

The fast-moving nature of UEFA competition means that it is less than a week since the Leith club discovered who they would host in the first leg of their opening Conference League qualifier, leaving management and support staff preparing a couple of different scenarios.

Only the research on Andorran side Santa Coloma ultimately survived, but having waited so long for his shot at European competition manager Jack Ross says there was never any likelihood his team would take to the Easter Road pitch, in front of 4700 fans, under-prepared or under-estimating their opponents.

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“European games were special for me growing up as a fan,” said Ross. “I enjoyed watching Scottish teams in Europe. So, to be involved in it as a manager is brilliant.”

Hibs manager Jack Ross, pictured alongside coach David Gray, says his team have prepared professionally for Thursday's European match. Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group

Having signed a contract extension until 2024, the Hibs manager admitted that the prospect of fulfilling that dream was one reason for joining the Leith club 20 months ago.

“I knew coming here, if I could lead a successful team then the opportunity for European football could be there. It’s been something, since then, that has been in my mind and I am delighted to be in Europe.

“It was a real driver for us last season and I am genuinely excited for it.”

Unearthing useful information and relevant footage of their Andorran foes has been far from straightforward, with their domestic season kicking off later than the Scottish term, leaving the Hibs management relying heavily on homework compiled in their previous tie.

As favourites, if Ross’ team produce their best, they should have enough to depend on and set themselves up nicely for the return leg, next week, and the next round, against either Maltese or Croatian opposition.

“Genuinely, I haven't looked at this in terms of the level of opposition. This is our first European match and the first game of the season for us. It’s a huge match.”

Plotting prolonged involvement in the competition, Ross understands the monetary and reputational rewards.

“There is the obvious incentive for us from a financial point of view and what that means to the club and how we strengthen all aspects of it. But also the perception of this football club. It is a club that has a long and brilliant history and is rightly recognised as a big club and we have always got to back that up with what we do on the pitch.

“The next challenge is for us to do that in European football. That isn’t easy – it is probably becoming more and more challenging - but there is no reason why clubs in Scotland shouldn’t be aiming for prolonged stays.

“It’s another fantastic thing for me to do. I am lucky to do this job and within it you get to experience different challenges and this is another one.

“The logistics of it are a new challenge, the travel arrangements and planning for the league games that follow is all different but exciting.

“We want to stay there as long as we can to benefit from the experience and enjoy that variety of opposition.”

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