Paddy McCourt says Celtic Euro progress could boost Scots

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Interview - Celtic midfielder Paddy McCourt

Celtic winger Paddy McCourt believes progressing to the group stage of the Champions League would provide a much-needed boost for Scottish football.

The Scottish Premier League champions host HJK Helsinki in Wednesday's third qualifying round first leg.

"It's important for us first and foremost," said McCourt.

"It would probably be some well-needed good news for the country and the league as a whole. There has been a rough few months of publicity."

The absence of Rangers from the top flight is expected to impact the league financially and SPL club officials, including Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell, have urged fans to buy season tickets to make up any shortfalls.

"There's probably a bit less money going about this year than previous years," said the Northern Ireland international.

"A season's 38-games long and you only play eight of them against the Old Firm.

"There's another 30 games and there's fans that came every other year, so they're really only going to be missing four games [against Rangers], so I'm sure they'll still come out and support their team.

"It's difficult to beat every team in that league. You might beat one team 3-0 or 4-0 maybe every four or five months. But, if you look at the rest of the results, it's tight games and really difficult places to go, so I'm sure we'll find it tough again this year."

Celtic have scored only twice in five pre-season games and have lost their last two friendlies against Norwich City and Ajax.

"I wouldn't say we're worried about our form, we're confident," McCourt said ahead of HJK's visit.

"It's going to be difficult, but we've confidence in the players we have. We'll hopeully put in a good performance and take a lead.

"We're looking to test ourselves there and that's where every player wants to play and we'll be doing our utmost to do that."

McCourt has often been restricted to occasional substitute appearances since joining Celtic in 2008 and is keen to make more of an impact this season rather than look for a new club.

"I don't think I played that big a role last year through one thing and another and I'm hoping to contribute a bit more this year," added the 28-year-old.

"The manager or Peter hasn't come to me and said there's been any offers. Until that happens, there's no decision to make."