Adam Bogdan could hardly have believed as he watched Liverpool face Real Madrid in the final of the Champions League barely two months ago that his next taste of European football would be against a side from the Faroe Islands.
The Hungarian international goalkeeper watched from behind Jurgen Klopp’s dug-out in Kiev’s NSC Olimpysky Stadium as the Merseyside club were put through an emotional wringer, the loss of talisman Mo Salah to a dislocated shoulder almost forgotten as the focus switched to the blunders by goalkeeper Loris Karius which cost them the trophy in a 3-1 defeat.
While everyone will remember the events of that night, what’s probably been forgotten by most is the journey that took Liverpool to Ukraine, Bogdan adamant that while the double-header against NSI Runavik is but the first step in a journey which Neil Lennon hopes will take Hibs to the group stages of this season’s Europa League, no-one can say where it might end.
Signed on loan for the season as Lennon’s No.1 goalkeeper Ofir Marciano recovers from a finger operation which, it is understood, could rule him out of action until the end of August, Bogdan is likely to be thrust straight into action when Runavik pitch up in Edinburgh next week.
Lennon’s ambition to make it through the various qualifying rounds may appear somewhat fanciful given the clubs which lie in wait should they navigate their way past Runavik and then Greek side Asteras Tripolis, but Bogdan insisted that in football anything is possible.
Pointing to Hibs’ own historic Scottish Cup triumph of two years ago, the 30-year-old said: “Everyone wants to be there, everyone who works at this club and the players all want to be in the group stages.
“It would be a great success, but anything is possible. I’ve only trained twice here, but it’s a very honest and hard working group of players. But the first step is the Faroe Islands team and playing there on the astroturf I’m sure won’t be easy.
“But just a couple of years ago this team showed everyone that with hard work and maybe a bit of luck you can win the Scottish Cup. Who would have thought that.
“Liverpool didn’t start the Champions League campaign in Kiev, you have to be humble and be ready for the opposition you face. This is the first step, but beautiful things can come out of it.
“You have to be fit, you have to be ready and when you do it on the training pitch you have to transfer it to the main stage. Then anything is possible.”
Liverpool, insisted Bogdan, had also proved that assertion as Klopp’s players defied the odds by beating the likes of Porto, Roma and Manchester City to reach May’s final, which left him as a fellow goalkeeper trying to console a distraught Karius afterwards.
He said: “It was emotionally unbelievable because everyone was going in with such positivity to win it. The fans were amazing, the team was confident and then you realise you are not going to win it and such sadness comes.”
Having once lost eight goals as a Robin van Persie-inspired Holland crushed Hungary, the 20-times capped Bogdan could totally sympathise with Karius, saying: “The whole day was full of highs and lows, then trying to grasp what had happened and getting over it for a week.
“If it had not been such a highlighted game – the biggest game in Europe – then you just say, ‘it happens to anyone’. But the stage was so big that you can’t know what that’s like. It makes it much harder to get over, I guess.
“The 8-1 defeat by Holland was a nightmare. We were not in good shape and we got run over by an amazing team. It can happen. But when it happens to a national team, it is a national tragedy, it’s more painful and emotional than in club life when you have another game next Saturday.
“It is the nature of being a goalkeeper and why we probably look more serious.”
Bogdan hasn’t played since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament while playing on loan at Wigan in November 2016, but he revealed he’s been fit since February and is now desperate to grab the chance handed to him by Lennon, who was once his boss at Bolton Wanderers.
He said: “It was a rollercoaster for me emotionally and physically. I saw a couple of doctors, had a few MRI scans and everything seemed clean. But my knee was still producing fluid so I had to take it easy. It took much longer than I thought it would and that made me a bit frustrated.
“However, I’m fit. I’ve been training in the first and second team at Liverpool. I’m feeling good, fresh and although maybe not 100 per cent fit yet, but I will be very soon.”
Bogdan conceded Marciano’s injury could provide him with an immediate opportunity to impress, but said: “I know it is a bit boring but it is up to the manager. You have to prove it on the training pitch. There is no point me saying it and then doing it on the pitch. I do not work like that. I think there’s a chance because Ofi is injured, but that would be disrespectful to Rosco [Ross Laidlaw].”
Bogdan believes the Scottish game will be in the spotlight in the coming months, with Anfield legend Steven Gerrard taking charge of Rangers with the remit to mount a realistic challenge to a Celtic side which has swept all before them over the past couple of years under ex-Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.
It was Rodgers who signed Bogdan for the Reds and it is the Northern Irishman he knows the better. He said: “I signed when Gerrard left. He came back to train with us when he was in the United States and there was a break in their season.
“He is a brilliant guy, humble but he has this aura about him because he won the Champions League and his quality on the ball. He’s a legend in Liverpool – rightly so – so you try to watch him in training and save his shots if you can and have a chat in the gym.
“Rodgers is quiet, I would say. He is a different type to Klopp. He signed me but at that time you had a feeling not all the fans were happy and the atmosphere was not the best. Then he left, came to Scotland and has been so successful.”
Tonight’s friendly against Berwick Rangers at Shielfield Park is likely to give Hibs fans their first look at Bogdan but, he revealed, he’s no stranger to Scotland, having holidayed in Inverness as a seven-year-old and also experiencing a short break in Edinburgh.
Admitting that with his red hair he looks “anything but Hungarian”, he said: “We had some friends in Wales and they had friends in Inverness so we did the usual things, Loch Ness and the like.
“Then I came to Edinburgh with my girlfriend, now my wife, ten years ago. We had a good time. Edinburgh is a sophisticated city and I liked it straight away.”