Paul Hartley compares Scottish football’s shutdown to a long-term injury.
The days of not knowing when you will be back out on a pitch again, the anxieties about your fitness levels, and the general absence of the game in your day-to-day life.
It has certainly fostered a greater appreciation for the game from the Cove Rangers manager. It is a sentiment Hartley expressed during his previous time out of football, after leaving Falkirk and before taking the Cove job. Waking up on a Saturday, not having a game to go to, or not being able to coach your players during the week leaves a void.
Hartley took in Aberdeen’s home game against Rangers but he was only reunited with his Cove players this week. It was a long time in coming for the former Dons and Hearts midfielder.
He said: “It’s just to enjoy it again. You’ll appreciate the game a lot more, having not had it.
“It’s been strange watching football without a crowd and hopefully by the time we come back, we do have some fans back in the ground. That will be up to the Scottish Government.
“Just being back on the training pitch, I don’t think we should take the game for granted anymore.
“It’s like somebody having a long-term injury and then you’re coming back – it feels like that.
“The last time we saw the players was March, so we’ve got to make sure we do everything right.”
Hartley added: “There will be a lot of rustiness. It’ll take a wee bit of time to get used to things again.
“It will be a tough pre-season for the lads who haven’t worked under me before, but we’ve got to be prepared as best we can, mentally and physically.”