Former Dons hero Snelders says keeper Lewis can help spring Europa shock on big guns Burnley

Theo Snelders in his Dons hey-day, left
Theo Snelders in his Dons hey-day, left

Former Aberdeen goalie Theo Snelders believes Joe Lewis will be key to the Dons’ Europa League hopes.

The Reds face Burnley a week on Thursday at Pittodrie in the first leg of the Europa League second qualifying round tie.

The draw could not have been much tougher for Derek McInnes’ side.

Sean Dyche’s Clarets finished seventh in the English Premier League last term and banked just shy of £120 million in television payments, compared with the £2.3m Aberdeen netted for finishing second in Scotland’s Premiership.

But legend Snelders, who played at Pittodrie from 1988 until 1996 and helped the Reds win the League Cup and Scottish Cup double in the 1989-90 season, believes the Dons can spring a surprise.

The former Netherlands international is a big fan of Aberdeen keeper Lewis and thinks the English custodian has a big role to play if the Dons are to win the Battle of Britain.

Joe Lewis.

Snelders said: “I’ve been very impressed by Joe Lewis, he is what you want in a goalie when you look at him.

“He is tall and slim, has a good reach, he is quick and I like him.

“Nowadays you need to be big as a goalkeeper because the strikers are big as well and you need someone to come and collect the crosses.

“Lewis has the physical attributes to do that.

“If he plays for Aberdeen he can’t be a bad goalie because if you were a bad goalie Aberdeen would buy another one.

“There’s not much about Scottish football in Holland, but from what I know about him he seems one of the best in Scotland.

“If you want to cause an upset you need a strong defence and the goalie belongs to that.

“He can keep clean sheets and could do it in this tie.

“The base for any team is a good defence and goalkeeper and then you need guys who can put the ball in the net.”

Snelders acknowledges the tie with Burnley is a tough one for his old club.

But the 54-year-old believes it is something they should relish.

He believes Aberdeen’s previous European experience could also be an advantage.

The Dons have been playing in Continental competition in each of the last four seasons.

By comparison this is Burnley’s first Euro campaign for 51 years – the last was in 1966-67 when they played in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.

Snelders also believes the Reds should take some inspiration from the World Cup in Russia, where there were a number of major shocks, as they look to upset the odds.

He added: “It’s an interesting one and a hard one, but it is a nice challenge ahead.

“Aberdeen have shown before they can do well and the incentive is there to cause an upset.

“We’ve seen in the World Cup there have been a few upsets so why not in European football?

“They have experience in Europe and they know at the start of pre-season the first competitive game is always a big one in Europe.

“They are used to that and have had it for the last four years.

“They are used to being ready quickly and Burnley haven’t so that could be an advantage.”

Snelders also believes if Aberdeen win the tie it would rank as one of the club’s great European results.

In 1983 under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Dons won the European Cup Winners’ Cup with victories over Bayern Munich and Real Madrid on the way to glory.

That was followed up later in the year with victory in the European Super Cup when the Reds beat European Cup winners Hamburg 2-0 on aggregate.

Aberdeen have also enjoyed Euro success in more recent times. In the 2007-08 season they beat Dnipro on away goals to qualify for the UEFA Cup group stage.

A 4-0 win over Copenhagen and a draw with Lokomotiv Moscow saw Jimmy Calderwood’s team reach the last-32 where they held Bayern Munich to a 2-2 draw at Pittodrie before losing in Germany.

Those results seem some distance away from where Aberdeen find themselves now, with Scotland’s co-efficient dropping and changes to the structure of UEFA competition meaning the Dons need to battle through three qualifying rounds to make the Europa League group stage.

Even though the tie with Burnley is only a qualifier Snelders believes victory would rank as one of the Reds’ most significant Euro results because they are facing a team with so much more money at their disposal due to playing in the English Premier League.

He said: “You see the money they are spending in England and what Aberdeen spend is pocket money compared to the Premier League.

“It would be a big upset if they can win, but they definitely can do it.”