Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey wants European football to become a regular summer fixture for the club.
Defeat on a 5-0 aggregate scoreline to Norway’s Odd failed to dampen the enthusiasm of Jeffrey towards continental competition.
Aside from praise for his players, Jeffrey took time out of his post-match focus to salute the supporters - and express hopes future European football will take place on The Showgrounds stage.
United’s domestic leg of the Europa League tie took place at Seaview last week, the home of Crusaders, due to issues with the Ballymena home unable to secure the UEFA licence.
“I’m bitterly disappointed this game did not happen at Ballymena’s Showgrounds,” said Jeffrey. “I do not want to sound negative and, in terms of the football family, we are very grateful to Crusaders.
“But I really do hope the officials responsible can see how many people decided to travel to Belfast.
“I’m hoping those in authority for The Showgrounds can maybe take it on to make sure if we get to Europe again that we are not travelling to Belfast.
“We want to take the game to our town, our community and our people.
“I want to give a very special mention to the Ballymena United supporters for making the trip.
“How many other clubs would come in such numbers and support a team 3-0 down from the first leg and show such appreciation and first-class backing?”
Jeffrey, who led the club to League Cup glory last season and success in the Europa League play-off spot, is keen to utilise the benefits gained from the Odd ties.
“Overall the experience was nothing but positive,” he said. “Those markers have helped to speed up the process as, having achieved, it is about confidence and self-belief.
“Experiences now are great and there will be disappointments but no-one need ever be worried about commitment or desire.
“We want to get back in Europe, so that’s the carrot as some players go over a full Irish League career and never get to have that experience.
“It is important that, having reached this point sooner than expected, we do not regress.
“We need to continue to extend our levels.”
The Seaview fixture offered competitive debuts to Emmet Friars and Andrew Burns, with Tim Allen having now left the club.
“The whole staff work hard on player recruitment,” said Jeffrey. “It’s about bringing in the right type of player and, more importantly, the right kind of people.”