We'll prove we're worth a second shot at Europe; Ledley backs Bhoys for group hug.



Byline: CRAIG SWAN

JOE LEDLEY says Celtic have been handed a huge lift by their Europa League reprieve - but are now under pressure to prove themselves worthy of their second chance.

The Welsh international was preparing for his side's encounter against Montenegro at the weekend when news broke the Hoops were back in Europe.

Sion, who defeated Neil Lennon's team 3-1 on aggregate in the play-off, were booted out of the competition for fielding ineligible players in both legs.

The ruling has enraged the Swiss but has handed Celtic a massive boost and a crumb of comfort for Scottish football at a tough time.

With the national team failing to defeat the Czech Republic in the weekend clash at Hampden the chances of Craig Levein's team and the Tartan Army going to Euro 2012 are fading.

In addition, the prospect of having not a single club side in European competition beyond August was a source of substantial pain for the country.

But Celtic's second chance has been welcomed around Scotland and, although Ledley insists no one feels better about it than the current group of Hoops players, he also admits they need to show they are worthy of a place.

Looking ahead to a European adventure against Atletico Madrid, Udinese and Rennes, Ledley said: "I have no sympathy for Sion whatsoever and it's great to be back in European competition.

"That's where Celtic belong and that's the main reason why I made the move from Cardiff City in the first place.

"It's important the Celtic fans see us in Europe playing against the best clubs and against the best players so it's all good as far as I'm concerned.

"We have not been in Europe at this stage for a couple of years now and a club of this size needs to be playing at this level.

"Also, the lads want to prove people wrong that we can do well in Europe.

"I know the fans will be planning a few trips now in Europe and that's fantastic.

"Hopefully they will enjoy the experience and we now need to improve from the Sion games. It's up to us to show the world how big this club is and prove to people we deserve this second bite at the apple."

In fairness, Celtic could not have faced a tougher group with the irony of the Sion debacle being that the Swiss were seeded in the bottom pot four in the draw.

Instead of being in pot two, Lennon's team joined the bottom dogs and that has given them tests against Spanish, Italian and French cracks.

But Ledley said: "We have a great squad and I think we can do well in this group.

"We will have sell-out games and the club would have lost a lot of money if Sion had gone through so it's a big boost to the whole club on and off the pitch.

"Once the dust has settled over this, we can get stuck into the scenario.

"It's a tough group but that's what European football is all about.

"You are playing at a different level than domestic football and we all need to up our game and do Celtic and their supporters proud."

Ledley's excitement at club level, however, will have to go on hold as he gets set for an internaional humdinger for Wales tomorrow night.

The Parkhead midfielder will be part of Gary Speed's squad looking for a famous success over England at Wembley in the Euro 2012 qualifier.

Ledley's chances of making the finals with his country next summer are gone but victory in London would go a long way towards easing that pain.

The Hoops ace can't wait for the game and as he earns his corn in Scotland is well aware Wales will have more than just the backing of their own countrymen at Wembley.

Ledley said: "I know from my experiences north of the border that Scotland will be right behind Wales, hoping we can turn over England in their own backyard.

"As we know, England are no mugs with the players they have, but Wales have done something they could not do and that's beat Montenegro, so we go into the game with good heart.

"I'm sure I'd get plenty of pats on the back from Celtic fans if we can pull it off."

CAPTION(S):

TRIP FANTASTIC Joe Ledley suffered against Sion but is hoping to enjoy his Europa League reprieve after playing his part in Wales' win against Montenegro on Friday, inset

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