St Patrick's Athletic take on Valletta of Malta in the Europa League this Thursday night and in advance of this match the Valletta manager Ton Caanen paid a visit to Richmond Park on Friday night to see the Saints take on Galway United.
Having been welcomed to the club by CEO Richard Sadlier, Ton Caanen very generously took some time out to speak with www.stpatsfc.com .
The Dutch manger has been clocking up the air miles recently – a trip to Iceland two weeks ago to view his opponents Kevflavik in the previous round, a return trip to Iceland last week that saw Valletta win 5-2 on aggregate before flying back to Germany and on to Ireland but according to Caannen it all has to be done “you have to show teams respect at this level, the St Pat's chief scout was out at our first game and Jeff Kenna attended the 2nd leg and that's how it should be done”.
Though it is his first time to visit Ireland he is familiar with St Patrick's Athletic and Irish Football “of course I had heard of Jeff Kenna and I had known the name of St Pat's – I knew they had done very well in the UEFA Cup last season and had played very well against Hertha Berlin.
We also have a system at our club where we can view matches of any overseas team so yes I have already watched a game of the club”.
Caanen is also aware that the Pat's team has changed quite a lot since last year “there is a new situation now at the club – you have brought in a number of younger players but I am sure that the new players will have the same philosophy and will be just as eager to play and do well”.
Valletta got their Europa League campaign off to a great start with a comprehensive 5-2 win against Keflavik of Iceland who were the favourites to progress “while I think there was perhaps a feeling among people in Malta that they did not believe that teams from Malta could compete in the UEFA Cup and maybe it was only wishful thinking on my part saying that we could compete.
In winning against Kevflavik maybe we changed a few opinions. While the result was a boost to other clubs in Maltese football I was particularly pleased for our own club and our president as there had been quite an investment made at the club”.