London Hearts Supporters Club

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Valdas Ivanauskas <-auth Anthony Haggerty auth-> Nicolai Vollquartz
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Valdas: Roar us to famous Euro victory
By Anthony Haggerty

HEARTS boss Valdas Ivanauskas last night appealed for the whole of Scotland to back his side's bid for a Champions League group place.

Valdas Ivanauskas

Ivanauskas wants Scotland to support Hearts in their Champions League qualifier

The Jambos face AEK Athens at Murrayfield tonight in the first leg of the third qualifying round, with a £6million jackpot at stake.

And the club expect a record crowd to roar them to glory against the Greeks.

Their previous best for a Euro tie was 37,500 for the game against Standard Liege in 1958.

Ivanauskas said: "This game is for more than just the Hearts supporters. It is for Edinburgh and Scotland and I would urge both to give Hearts their full support on this occasion.

"The need for Hearts fans to come out and support their team has never been greater.

"It will feel good for the players to play in front of a big crowd and it will be important for them to feel that."

Ivanauskas also revealed that he had fired up the Jambos squad for the AEK clash by showing the players the video of last season's 1-0 victory over Aberdeen that clinched them second place in the SPL and their crack at the Champions League.

Paul Hartley converted a penalty for the crucial win on an emotional night at Tynecastle back in May.

And Lithuanian head coach Ivanauskas said he wanted to show the players the different kind of emotions they endured on an unforgettable night in the capital.

Ivanauskas insisted that the purpose of the video screening was to act as a reminder of just how hard they worked to get to the Champions League qualifying stage.

He also viewed it as an inspiration in the build-up to the double header with AEK.

Ivanauskas said: "We were driving on the team bus and I showed the players a video of the Aberdeen game.

"I saw in their faces how they reacted to a highpressure game that night, especially when Paul Hartley converted the penalty.

"It was as if the pressure had been lifted and they could feel that they had achieved their objective of qualifying for the Champions League.

"It was just amazing to see.

"It was a reminder to the players just how hard they had worked even to get to this stage of the tournament."

Ivanauskas conceded that the AEK clashes will be the biggest games in which he has been involved as a coach and that includes the Scottish Cup Final against Gretna last May.

He revealed that it will be a huge honour to lead Hearts into arguably the biggest two matches in their history.

And he revealed that neither he nor the Hearts players have focused on the financial rewards that await the winners of the ties.

Ivanauskas said: "Winning the Scottish Cup was not just my effort but it was also the efforts of George Burley and Graham Rix who brought the team to that point last season.

"I am proud of leading the Hearts team to the biggest matches in their history and it is fair to say that they will be the most important games I have ever coached in.

"This is definitely not about the money for the players but it is about the fact that they have a fantastic opportunity to reach the Champions League group stage.

"There is no focus on financial issues."

And Ivanauskas believes that Hearts' 2-1 defeat of SPL champions Celtic on Sunday showed that this Jambos side can play. He took a swipe at the critics who he feels have been negative towards his team recently.

Ivanauskas said: "The victory over Celtic was very important for us, especially after an unsatisfactory result in Bosnia.

"We have managed to prove to all the so-called experts that Hearts can play and that we are a team good and we are a big team.

"Positive criticism is always welcome and but some have the misfortune to choose to portray things in a negative way and don't have the necessary insider perspective that only my staff and I have."

Scotland international midfielder Hartley and Senegalese defender Ibrahim Tall both miss out but striker Edgaras Jankauskas and defender Takis Fyssas return to the squad.

Taken from the Daily Record

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