John Robertson reveals reasons for respite, role change and his personal tragedy at Inverness last season
John Robertson has revealed how losing focus of himself while ensuring his players and families got through the COVID pandemic led to his break from the game.
The Hearts legend is back at Inverness Caledonian Thistle as sporting director having stepped back as Highlands manager in February, with Neil McCann and Billy Dodds working through his leave of absence.
Dodds is now in charge at the Caledonian Stadium with Robertson taking on a new role having taken on “too much as manager” and dealing with his own personal tragedy in the most trying of circumstances, leading to a complete break from the game he loved.
“It just got too much. I took on far too much; that’s a fault of my own and I should have delegated a bit more.
"I didn’t want anything bad to happen with anyone else that I took the eye off the ball with myself.
“It got to the stage where I wasn’t being me. I was getting irritable, I was snappy – I was doing it to make sure everyone was OK.”
Four of Robertson’s siblings had health issues, and the family lost his sister. The ICT boss was working through the pandemic and ensuring protocols were in place and players were not risking the health of their own families, while missing his own.
“I spoke to my sister on the Tuesday. She was taken in on Wednesday for a general scan and found the cancer had spread to the rest of her body. By 12 o’clock on the Thursday, she had died.
“I had to realise that I had to take a step back, a step away from football. There are more important things in life. You don’t always think like that in football.”
During the pandemic the additional workload had increased too, leading to a clean break and McCann and Dodds’ arrival.
He added: “We had lost [assistant] Scott Kellacher at Christmas, through a previous illness he’d had, then long Covid.
"I probably took too much on myself.
“I had to come off my phone. I wasn’t allowed to watch football on TV or live. I wasn’t allowed to watch training, read about it – no football whatsoever, it was a complete reset button while we looked into why I wasn’t feeling so well.
“That was tough going but it was needed. It had got to the stage where I was sleeping maybe only an hour or two a night for three months prior to that,” he told The Wyness Shuffle podcast.
"Scot [Gardiner, Caley CEO], Ross Morrison – the chairman – and the board have been tremendous while I’ve been going through this.
“I can’t speak enough of Neil McCann and Billy Dodds on the job they did under hugely trying circumstances," he added. "Neil was terrific. His concern for me was tremendous.”
Now with Dodds at the helm Robertson has switched his phone on again, and is back in the game as sporting director.
“We couldn’t put a definitive date on when I could come back as manager. I thought it would be hugely unfair on the club to have to wait. Scot and the board came back with this option. For the benefit of the club, the players, the team, this was a way forward that would help everybody.”