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McCall's Motherwell aiming high on debut

"We won't be naive but we'll have a go," said Motherwell FC manager Stuart McCall as his side prepare to make their UEFA Champions League debut against Panathinaikos FC.

Motherwell manager Stuart McCall stressed the importance of getting a positive result on home soil
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall stressed the importance of getting a positive result on home soil ©Getty Images

Motherwell FC will write a new chapter in their history when they face Panathinaikos FC in their maiden UEFA Champions League appearance on Tuesday.

The Lanarkshire team host Jesualdo Ferreira's charges in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie, and, with a capacity crowd expected at Fir Park, manager Stuart McCall is aiming for a positive result to take to Athens next week.

"We won't be naive but we'll have a go," said McCall, who has experience in Europe's premier club competition having narrowly missed out on the final in 1993 as a player with Rangers FC. "People will say we have to be careful, that we don't go gung-ho early, lose a couple of early goals and end up going out of the tie after the first game.

"Realistically though, we know if we're going to go through we'll need to get a positive result at home. If we can take anything over there, then that would be great. I don't want to set up ultra defensively because I also want us to have a bit of a go."

Injuries and summer departures have left McCall short of defensive cover, so new signing Simon Ramsden could make his debut. The former Bradford City AFC right-back recently put pen to paper on a one-year deal and can scarcely believe that his first appearance for the Steelmen could be in club football's elite tournament.

"It's crazy to think my first competitive game will be in the Champions League," said the 30-year-old, who figured in a promotion play-off final at Wembley with Rochdale AFC four years ago. "The biggest game I've played was a play-off final at Wembley. Although we lost, it was brilliant, but this game is without doubt bigger. Champions League football is on another level. It's a great game to be involved in. It's something you have to relish. It's why you play football, to test yourself against the best."

Meanwhile, Panathinaikos defender Jean-Alain Boumsong is relishing his return to Scottish football, with the ex-Rangers man warning his team-mates not to underestimate Motherwell. "It's a European game and in football anything is possible," said Boumsong. "We know we are going to face a very difficult side, especially with Motherwell being at home.

"I know all about the Scottish spirit so we will need to be at our best. I played at Fir Park with Rangers and it was always a tough game and this will be no different. Maybe the fact we have more European experience than Motherwell will help us but that doesn't automatically guarantee anything in football."