Safeguarding players’ mental health during self-isolation is as vital as retaining their match fitness, insists Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes.
Three Dons players recently returned from two weeks of self-isolation following a Covid-19 outbreak in the Scotland Under-21 squad.
Ross McCrorie, Lewis Ferguson and Connor McLennan were confined to their houses.
Not only did the trio miss three games, they were also absent from training at Cormack Park.
It was important to keep their spirits up.”
McInnes and the club supplied the necessary equipment to ensure they could retain their physical fitness levels.
They also kept in close contact with the three self-isolating players to ensure mental health was not affected during the time alone.
McInnes said: “When they go into self isolation, on the outside they can be bubbly with a façade that everything is alright and they are cracking jokes.
“But there is a deeper concern there that you obviously have to try to make sure isn’t an issue.
“It was important to keep their spirits up as there is that mental aspect.
“I phoned the lads a few times and so did other members of staff.
“They are a tight group and there were loads of Facetime calls between the players.
“Even players who were not self isolating, there are still loads of restrictions on them.
“Players are getting used to living that isolated way of life.”
Scotland U21 captain McCrorie, who was asymptomatic, tested positive, while Ferguson and McLennan all returned negative results.
McCrorie had also previously tested positive in March while on loan from Rangers at Portsmouth.
All three returned for the 1-1 draw with St Mirren last weekend with McCrorie and Ferguson starting and McLennan on the bench.
These are finely tuned athletes who are used to working in a certain way and conditioning their bodies.
“That got taken away from them.”
Ferguson is suspended for today’s Premiership home clash with Ross County having been dismissed for a second yellow against St Mirren.
Referee Bobby Madden brandished a second caution early in the first half following a collision between Ferguson and Jon Obika in the St Mirren half.
McInnes said: “These are finely tuned athletes who are used to working in a certain way and conditioning their bodies.
“That got taken away from them.
“We made a point of making sure the lads had access to treadmills, weight and bikes so they could still do some sort of work.
“Although physically they are ready when they come back, they are more susceptible to injuries having not been able to get out and do the exercises.”
The absence of McCrorie, Ferguson and McLennan for three games placed further pressure on a squad already weakened by injury.
Attacker Scott Wright has missed four games with a double hernia and underwent surgery in Manchester. He will be ruled out for a month.
On-loan Bristol City attacker Marley Watkins will be absent until mid January with a hamstring injury that also required surgery.
Watkins loan deal expires next month.
Midfielder Dylan McGeouch has been out for more than a month with a groin injury and Niall McGinn is also unavailable with a groin issue.
McInnes hopes McGeouch and McGinn will both return to full training next week.
In a further injury blow, Scotland international defender Mikey Devlin suffered ankle ligament damage in training this week.
The 27-year-old will undergo surgery next week and will be ruled out for three months.
Now four games without victory, Aberdeen surrendered third spot to Hibs last weekend.
Ahead of days Pittodrie meeting with Ross County, McInnes said: “We need to get back to winning ways today to keep ourselves up at the top end of the table.
“We got off to a decent start in the league this season, but we have got to recognise we have to improve on what we have had over the last few weeks.
“We have had one league defeat in the last wee while to Rangers (4-0, Ibrox), but two draws away from home (Hamilton, St Mirren).
“There is a train of thought that if you can win your home games then that point you pick up on the road doesn’t seem so bad.
“But it is all on the back of winning your home games.”
Aberdeen return to Pittodrie today for the first time in more than a month, when beating Hibs 2-0 on November 6.
The Dons had a bid to have 1,000 supporters at today’s game rejected by the Scottish government.
A request to have 2,000 fans at the Boxing Day clash with St Johnstone at Pittodrie was also rejected by Holyrood.
McInnes said: “It has been a while since we were last at Pittodrie.
“In our last home game against Hibs we were very comfortable and hopefully we can have something similar to that.
“I remember after that game against Hibs I felt we had the answers on the pitch and also the answers on the bench.
“Since then we have had to deal with a lot.
“Being back at home and getting back to winning ways is so important.”