Crusaders determined to make the most from FC Basel test

Stephen Baxter admits his Crusaders side are in for a "stern test" against FC Basel on Thursday night but he is delighted to be flying the flag for the Irish League against the high profile opposition.

By Steven Crawford
Wednesday, 20th July 2022, 12:50 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th July 2022, 12:53 pm

The Swiss kingpins have a rich European history and last season reached the last 16 of the Europa League.

Baxter, whose side gave a great account of themselves against Wolves three years go, knows it will be a tough task at St Jakob-Park but it is one he is embracing as he feels it will only help boost Crusaders and the league as a whole.

"They obviously have pedigree in Europe and have qualified for the Champions League numerous times so it will be a stern test," said the Crues boss.

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter

"This is exciting though for a team like Crusaders.

"Three or four years ago this was a big part-time league, and now we're seeing this wonderful progression in our local game.

"We're only a nation of 1.5 million people, and now we're getting some quality stadiums, better players are coming into the league, and that has really come about from the European ventures from all the teams.

"So all these things have helped our league in recent years and it's important that we keep trying to fly that flag and keep the improvements coming.

"Playing a team like Wolves and now going to play a team like Basel will be magnificent for us.

"When we played Wolves I thought we were going to lose 20-0 when you saw the quality of players you were up against!

"So we've done it a few times. We'll go out there and enjoy it.

"We certainly don't want to embarrass ourselves, we'll get everything we want out of it, and learn from it.

"Are we going to progress to the group stages of this competition having to face Basel? I wouldn't have thought that may happen, but we'll go out there and give a good account of ourselves.

"Wolves beat us 2-0 away from home when they scored in the 94th minute.

"We scored the first goal in the second leg at Seaview and all of a sudden there was a wee worry on the face.

"You never know but you take it in the round."

Crusaders recorded another memorable victory in Europe last week as they knocked out Bruno's Magpies to set up this mouth-watering clash with FC Basel.

Baxter admitted he had banned all chat of the possibility of facing the Swiss side until after they had secured their place in the second qualifying round, which they did in some style.

"We've had 14 goes at this having got through a few rounds and we were talking about the memories from those trips," he said.

"We won in Lithuania and Estonia in the past and narrowly lost in Latvia when we should have won.

"I banned all talk of Basel until we got the second leg played last week.

"People were asking me things but my response was that we had a football match to win first before we could talk about anything.

"We'll look forward to it. I'm led to believe they have a 40,000-seater stadium with 30,000 in it every time they play.

"That will be something, a bit like the Wolves game for us a couple of years ago.

"We are looking forward to the challenge.

"You have to enjoy and live the moment because it's fantastic for your football club.

"To win a round is extra pleasing, we enjoyed that moment before focusing on the next one.

"The financial side of things doesn't ever interest me.

"I only ever want our team to perform well, and when you see their enjoyment in the celebrations it was brilliant to behold. Those are the special moments in football."