BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
MAURICE ROSS reckons the impossible quest to find an affordable pint will be the only disappointment Hibs fans endure in Toftir – as he backed the capital club to bully their way past NSI Runavik.
The former Scotland internationalist enjoyed a six-month stint in charge of Vikingur Gota, the champions of the Faroe Islands, before leaving the club last month.
That followed a hugely impressive spell with TB/FC Suduroy/Royn in the southern part of the tiny nation.
Ross has plenty of admiration for Runavik’s commitment to youth, organisation and threat on the break – and can speak from experience after his Vikingur side suffered a 2-1 home defeat against them in April.
Nevertheless, he would be astonished if the part-timers sprung a shock against Neil Lennon’s streetwise Hibees.
“Hibs shouldn’t have too much trouble getting through,” said Ross. “If it comes down to quality then there’s no doubt they have the better players – but I’m sure Neil Lennon will be drilling into them that anything can happen and not to be complacent.
“There’s a lot to like about NSI as a club, they give young talent a chance and do carry some threat, mainly from out wide.
“Guys like Petur Knudsen, Betuel Hansen and Jann Benjaminsen all play in attacking areas and have a bit of youth, pace and have scored a few goals this season.
“The issue will be whether they can get the ball to those guys enough to hurt Hibs.
“What they don’t really have is physicality. They aren’t a big side, so that could be a big advantage Hibs have. Knowing the style of game in Scotland, and how much strength is required in most matches, that might be something NSI struggle to cope with.
“Going up against them a couple of times, I can be pretty sure that they’ll focus on being defensively strong. They’ll try to shut up shop and hit on the break, but I’d be surprised if Hibs don’t find a way through over two legs.”
With Runavik’s modest Vid Lokin Stadium not fit for purpose for Europa League fixtures, the second leg of the tie will take place in the Svangaskard Stadium in Toftir – offering the Hibees a further boost.
And, while whipping wind and driving rain are always a possibility on the isolated archipelago, Ross doubts that even the dreich weather will come to the minnows’ rescue.
“Hibs will need to be ready for any conditions – a bit like Scotland,” added Ross. “You could be anything between 10 degrees and 18 degrees and, with the geography, might get wind, rain. Or sunshine, just occasionally.
“The conditions might play a wee part, but not enough to make a massive difference.
Ross has carved a fine reputation as an up and coming coach, working with Sola FK and Egersunds IK in Norway, where he now lives with his family, prior to his adventure in the Faroese adventure. And he did sound one note of caution for the visitors.
He laughed: “It’s certainly not the cheapest. A hotel and a night out on the bevvy will cost them a fortune!
“It will be a good trip for the Hibs fans, though, and a bit of a journey into the unknown for them.”