Hibs Ladies coach Chris Roberts will tonight tell his players to go out and enjoy their first taste of Champions League football against German champions Bayern Munich – because they deserve to be on such a stage.
While Roberts’ part-timers appear to be up against it as they face a full-time side packed with international players – 17 of their squad of 18 recently played for nine different countries – their coach insists they won’t be overawed by the occasion. And rather than suffer from stage-fright – the game is set to attract a crowd bigger than normal for Hibs Ladies matches – Roberts will implore them to drink in both tonight’s first leg and next week’s return in Germany.
He said: “The hard work they have put in every single day to be as full-time a professional athlete as possible has already been done. They have to go out and enjoy it, believe in themselves, back themselves and work as hard as they can as a unit to control the things we can control.
“We have to be compact, be hard to beat and brave enough to get on the ball going forward and to show the quality we have going forward. Regardless of the outcome, the players should be proud of what they have put in and they deserve this opportunity to go and enjoy the occasion.”
Roberts makes no secret of the task facing his players in what will be the biggest game of their careers. Bayern having won the Frauen Bundesliga for the past two seasons and with five of their players having won recent Olympic gold medals.
But he firmly believes his players will rise to the challenge, saying: “Those who follow women’s football will know the strength of the German league. We know it’s going to be an extremely tough game. They are full-time professionals, some of the best players in the world, Olympic champions, World Champions, European Champions, so from that point of view it’s going to be great to get experience of this level.
“The girls are in relation to it and as a club we can see where we are in relation to it. It’s a great opportunity, a great occasion so we want to go and enjoy it and it can be something we can walk away from and remember positively.”
As big as tonight’s game is, Roberts is determined it won’t overshadow the remainder of Hibs season as they attempt to chase down league leaders Glasgow City with a match against Celtic sandwiched between the home and away legs of the Champions League which will be followed by a Scottish Cup semi-final.
He said: “We’ve got a run of really exciting games coming up and we want to finish the season on a high, not just on one front but all three. We’re still going in the league, we desperately want to bring another Scottish Cup back to Easter Road this year and we want to build on our League Cup win of earlier in the year.”
Tonight’s match at Easter Road kicks off at 7.30pm. Admission is £7 for adults and £3 for concessions.