CHAMPIONS’ LEAGUE: Waterworth’s Euro warning to ignore Celtic prize

Linfield striker Andy Waterworth. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Linfield striker Andy Waterworth. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
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Andy Waterworth is determined not to get too carried away by a potential Champions’ League qualifying tie with Celtic.

Linfield will take on the Scottish giants if they overcome La Fiorita in the first qualifying round.

But the marksman says it’s important to focus on the job in hand against the champions of San Marino and not get distracted by the possible mouth-watering clash with Brendan Rodgers’ side.

“First and foremost, talking to a few players and doing a bit of research, we know this first tie is not going to be easy,” said Waterworth about La Fiorita. “People are saying San Marino is the size of Ballymena and all that but La Fiorita are going to be a good side.

“They draw a lot of their players from the lower leagues in Italy.

“It’s very hard not to be intrigued and excited about the possibility of playing Celtic, it’s only human, but we do realise it is a potential banana-skin because there is so much at stake.

“It would be worth a lot of money and it would be two massive games for a lot of players but if we go into the game against La Fiorita with that mentality you could end up with egg on your face before getting anywhere near Celtic.

“You don’t qualify for the Champions’ League without being a good side.

“Even when people were saying we should comfortably beat sides from the Faroe Islands, we did struggle at times because they’ve always been dogged, determined and physical, so I expect La Fiorita to be something similar.”

The chance to take on the all-conquering Celtic side is one which Waterworth wants though, and he certainly isn’t phased by the prospect.

“We’ve couldn’t have asked for a better draw, to be honest,” he said. “This Linfield team at the minute doesn’t fear anything.

“Playing Celtic, if that happens, is something we will really look forward to and relish.

“Hosting them here would be amazing and who wouldn’t want to play at Parkhead?

“I work at at the Irish FA with Stevie Garrett, who played against Celtic in the Champions’ League with Cliftonville four years ago but I haven’t had a chance to have a chat with him yet.

“I’m sure I’ll get his opinion but we are just glad the first tie isn’t too far to travel.

“I’ve been to places before like Israel, when you’re travelling all day and it disrupts you and your training routine.

“But the second tie is the one we wanted. We all wanted a big club and they don’t come much bigger than Celtic.

“I’m sure if we get there, both games will be a sell-out. I’m sure it will be heated but it will be great for our league, too.

“It will be exciting to have Celtic come to Windsor Park and for us to hopefully go to Glasgow, it will put the Irish League football on the map.

“It’s a part-time league but it would be a great showcase.

“The incentive to win the league and qualifying for the Champions’ League is great enough, but this could be the icing on the cake and a real added bonus.”