Dundalk striker David McMillan says the club’s recent European woes are not a failure – suggesting their UEFA Europa League group stage appearances in 2016 created unrealistic expectations.
The striker returned to the club after two-and-a-half years in Scotland in July and played as the club crashed out of the Champions League to NK Celje last month, days before boss Vinny Perth got the sack.
The forward, who hit five goals in that memorable campaign, says that the success of four years ago was always going to be hard to replicate. “I think that we set the standard so high in 2016 that not being able to meet that since then seems like a failure.
“But I don’t think that. A lot of teams in Europe are so strong that they are always tough opponents,” he told LouthNow.ie. “Looking at the quality of Qarabag last season, nobody would have expected Dundalk to get close to them but for what the team did in 2016.
“I just think that we have set standards that are very high and you are going to be criticised if you don’t reach them again.
“That time in 2016 was a special journey so if we could do that again it would be amazing. Every player would love to be part of it.”
The forward, who could return to the bench against Andorran side Inter Club D’Escaldes tonight as Pat Hoban returns from injury, said recent upheaval at the club was no excuse for any issues the Lilywhites may have in Andorra.
New boss Filippo Giovagnoli will take the helm for his first European tie as a manager and just his third game since his shock arrival.
“I wouldn’t want to be using that as an excuse. There may be only one or two of these games every season so you put all that to one side and give it your absolute best.
“I don’t feel that it was a bad performance against Celje. We felt that we were right in the game and had opportunities to equalise. We must produce a really good performance and get everyone playing at their maximum and hopefully we can do that.”
American winger Josh Gatt has stayed behind in Ireland after picking up a cold earlier in the week. Patrick McEleney picked up an injury in the warm up before Friday’s win over Shelbourne and is missing. Dane Massey remains out.
The winner of the one-off tie will face Moldovan champions Sheriff Tiraspol, away, next Thursday.