Scotland manager Steve Clarke has urged fans to play their part in the fight against coronavirus on the day his side should have been facing Israel.
The Euro 2020 play-off match has now been postponed until June, though there is every possibility that date could be pushed back further as the football shutdown continues.
Clarke revealed his disappointment at not being able to lead his team at Hampden in front of what would have been a sell-out crowd, but he said the “togetherness, loyalty and commitment” of supporters could be utilised in the battle against the spread of coronavirus.
‘It would have been an incredibly proud night for me and the whole team and we would have given every ounce to be on that plane to Norway or Serbia.’Steve Clarke
In a letter to supporters, the national team boss said: “I think most of you, like me, will have woken-up this morning, looked at the date and wished the circumstances could have been very different.
“Thursday, March 26 had been circled in my wall planner from the moment I had the honour of becoming Scotland head coach. Truth be told, I had hoped we wouldn’t have needed the Nations League Play-Off route: I believed we could have finished higher than our eventual third place in the UEFA EURO 2020 qualification group.
“All those qualifying games seem far less important now, insignificant even, but this is the reality of the situation we find ourselves in.
“The world has changed in recent weeks and months and football, rightly, has had to take a step back as our government and our wonderful, brave and selfless NHS staff step-up their efforts to tackle a far greater opponent.
“This is a difficult letter to write because, as a father and grandfather there are far greater considerations in life right now and far greater responsibilities on all of us but, at the same time, I feel it important to recognise and show appreciation for the effort you all had gone to in ensuring our match against Israel would have been a sell-out.
“It would have been an incredibly proud night for me and the whole team and we would have given every ounce to be on that plane to Norway or Serbia.
Clarke went on to emphasise the importance of following official guidance and to stay home in order to protect others. And he admitted the absence of football from daily life was one he felt keenly.
“Football is our national sport and its absence has had the same effect on me that it has had for every lover of the game in this country,” he said. “The sooner we all take the advice on board to stay at home, the sooner we can get back to our own normality of midweek nights and weekend afternoons among friends, at our spiritual homes across the country.
“That is for later, as is our match against Israel, whenever the authorities consider it appropriate – and above all, safe – to resume football across the world.
“In the meantime, I will be thinking of you tonight and imagining what might have been and what could yet be.
“Stay healthy, stay safe, most importantly stay home.”