Part-time Priestley targeting piece of international history

FOR Adam Priestley and his Gibraltar team-mates, scoring that first competitive international goal is hard enough – let alone now having arguably the world’s best goalkeeper standing in their way.

Thursday, 13th November 2014, 6:33 am
Farsley's Gibraltar international Adam Priestley. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).

The international mismatch of the century takes place tomorrow night when little Gibraltar, UEFA’s newest and smallest member, face world champions and FIFA’s top-ranked side Germany.

Amid the excitement of lining up against the leading footballing nation on the planet in Nuremberg, there is also understandbale trepidation.

Three games into their Group D Euro 2016 qualification adventure, Gibraltar have accrued three losses, no goals and a minus-17 goal difference. Consistency of the wrong kind.

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Both Poland and the Republic of Ireland have put seven goals without reply past them and now come the Germans, whose biggest win was a 16-0 victory over the Russian Empire back in 1912.

Most are expecting a similar cricket score, especially with Joachim Low’s side stung by a haul of just four points from three qualification games and seeking payback. All this coming not so long after putting seven past Brazil in a World Cup semi-final.

Third in a group table is simply not the level of Teutonic efficiency that Die Mannschaft demand and expect. Gibraltar, you have been warned.

If the visitors do manage to somewhat break out from their defensive straitjacket, therein lies the next problem.

Namely the formidable barrier likely to lie in front of them at the other end tomorrow in Manuel Neuer, Golden Glove winner at the last World Cup, awarded to the best goalkeeper on show.

On what Gibraltar are up against, Farsley striker Priestley – who has made two appearances from the bench in qualification matches so far – said: “You watch these German players on TV and admire what they do and to have the chance to be on the same pitch as them and competing against them is massive.

“You look at players like Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Manuel Neuer. Everyone on the pitch will be world-class players. It is a scary thought.

“It is crazy we will be gracing the pitch against this calibre of players.

“Without a doubt, it was the game that stuck out when the draw was made. At the time, they weren’t world champions and now they are and it makes it an even bigger game.

“It is not every day you get to play against the world champions, so it will be an amazing experience – no matter what the result is.

“To play against the calibre of players as Germany and say I have played against the world champions would be something I never personally thought I’d do.

“I will work hard in training over there and fingers crossed, whether it is from the start or the bench, hopefully I can get a few more minutes under my belt and maybe get a chance.”

It’s already been some footballing journey for Gibraltar – population 30,000 – with their team having gone from Sunday League football to facing the world champions in just 18 months.

While Gibraltarians will go crazy if their heroes manage so much as a goal against the Germans, home fans won’t be anything like as enamoured.

For the visitors, keeping the scoreline respectable is their mission, although the ultimate Holy Grail is recording their first-ever goal in a UEFA competition, which would represent the height of their ambitions tomorrow.

And how Priestley, 24, the part-time footballer from Sherburn who works as a teacher at Morley Academy, would love to be the man to do it.

He said: “Scoring that first competitive goal is an accolade I think a few of the players would like; myself being one of them.

“We have had a few chances and scored one against Georgia and we still can’t see why it was ruled out.

“One of the left-backs also had a header against Ireland from a corner and it literally hit the keeper on the head and went over the bar. We will get there.”

Priestley came off the bench in Gibraltar’s last Group D clash, a 3-0 home loss to Georgia in Faro on October 14 and also entered the fray in their historic first qualification game against Poland when Robert Lewandowski scored four goals.

For Priestley – who started out at Sherburn White Rose and has also played with Garforth Town – and his team-mates, the step-up in class has been colossal.

But don’t think he and his colleagues have stopped believing. Priestley, born in Gibraltar where his father served in the RAF, said: “We are creating good chances. It is a matter of time before we take one.

“The thing for us is that the players we faced at this level don’t make many mistakes and that is why they are professional players. I don’t think the fitness levels or anything like that are too different, but when you look at how well the teams keep the ball and keep it moving, it’s hard.

“When you come up against top strikers like Robbie Keane and Robert Lewandowski, they are going to punish you, given half the chance.”

Priestley can count on plenty of support in his corner from pupils and well-wishers tomorrow, with his forthcoming date against the world champions having been the main topic of conversation during school lessons recently.

Priestley, nicknamed ‘Mr Gibraltar’ by his pupils, added: “I have had a few text messages and phone calls from people asking to get them tickets and it is all the kids have been talking about.

“They have been reminding me all the time. I have to keep saying: ‘Get on with your work!’”