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‘Is this close season?’: Jack Ross on shutdown challenges

The Hibs head coach says it's difficult to deal with the suspension of Premiership games.

‘Is this close season?’: Jack Ross on shutdown challenges SNS

Hibs head coach Jack Ross believes the uncertainty over a return date for football is creating an unique set of challenges for clubs.

Footballers across the country are now training on their own as society takes measures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, with the Premiership and other competitions suspended indefinitely.

Hibs, like many other clubs, gave their players time off initially and then started training again under the current restrictions. The club have allowed their foreign players to return home while everyone has a programme to keep them fit and as ready as possible for a return to normality, but Ross says it’s almost impossible to have a plan without information about when the team will play again.

“That’s the definitely the most difficult part,” he told STV.

“The first part is how the players are conditioning at the moment.

“Is this, in theory, their close season?

“In which case, they’ll use this as recovery time and building up to a return to training and a return to play, but we don’t know that and we don’t know how long that will last.

“The next part is how you plan forward as a club and as a squad. Under normal circumstances, there would be an element of frustration around that, but given these are unprecedented times we’re living in at the moment, we’ve all come to terms with it.

“As a manager, I think most important thing is the welfare of the current players and then, hopefully, us all returning to a football club that remains in good health.

Ross said that schedules were initially built around the proposed return date of April 30 but with that now looking unlikely, adjustments were having to be made.

He admitted: “The difficulty for players and, from my perspective, is the uncertainty. There is no return to play date, no return to training date, and under normal circumstances you have that. We just adapt according to information we’re given.”

‘At the moment, we’re in an okay position but I think it would be foolish and naive for any single football club throughout world football to believe that they could sustainably remain in a good position months on end without any income.’

Jack Ross

The financial impact of the pandemic is also being keenly felt across Scottish football and Ross said that while Hibs were not in a precarious position, a lengthy shutdown would mean that cost cuts may have to come into place at even the most well-prepared clubs.

“I speak to Graeme Mathie, Leeann Dempster and Ron Gordon regularly,” he said. “I think they know I’m balanced and I understand that this is a really unusual time for all the football clubs in Scotland,

“If you’re sensible about it, and you apply common sense, you know there’s going to be some sacrifices for every single club, even those in the most healthy financial position, and we are a stable club in that sense. I think it’s just ensuring we have that constant communication with them and if there is a time we need to communicate with players around any changes that might take place, we’ll do that.

“At the moment, we’re in an okay position but I think it would be foolish and naive for any single football club throughout world football to believe that they could sustainably remain in a good position months on end without any income. The constant flow of communication is the important thing and ensuring that whenever there is anything that will change the dynamic, it’s communicated in the proper manner.”

One boost for the club in difficult times has been the response to the club’s season ticket launch, with supporters getting behind the team in the one way they can in the circumstances.

Ross said: “It’s incredible and testament to those individuals that still make a choice to give their backing, to Hibs in my instance,  but to any football club, in what will be a challenging time for individuals as well.

“I think it also reinforces the importance of football in our culture. I think that when we do come back to it, people will embrace it again as well. I think it’s been shown loads of times, over the years, that when clubs have been in adversity, fans enable clubs to keep moving forward.

“Already the reaction from Hibs supporters today shows their willingness to do that, which is terrific, and that’s why I don’t think any player, manager or coach should discount the fact that they may need to make sacrifices along the way as well to enable us all have a club to come back to and a healthy one, for all the professional clubs at the moment, as well.”