Hibs players merit break and some certainty - this is not a holiday for them

Hibs have not trained together since mid-March.Hibs have not trained together since mid-March.
Hibs have not trained together since mid-March.
Hibees boss Ross has player welfare at forefront of mind

While the discourse rages on about if and when to call time on the Scottish Premiership season and whether reconstruction is necessary to address issues of fairness, Hibs manager Jack Ross has asked that the welfare of players be taken into consideration.

Calling for a speedy conclusion, he says that clarity is now needed.

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Although he describes himself as fairly relaxed about the fate of the season, his fear is that an even more protracted debate could leave his squad and others ill-prepared for the mental and physical rigours of a new term.

The season was due to end in a couple of weeks, with players and staff looking forward to a summer of recharging the batteries before embarking on the intensity of pre-season training and a new campaign.

And Ross - who is isolating with wife Heather and daughters Meadow, 11, and Mila, 5, at their Northumberland home and admits it has been tough not seeing parents or for his girls to see their friends - believes it is important that clarity is served up before then, allowing players who have been training in isolation since March to switch off.

Players need time off

“We accept that it is an unprecedented situation and it has been OK. But a little bit of certainty would help us and help players. I don’t mind which way the situation pans out, but a bit of certainty would be good.

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“That would help with our planning but it would help everyone’s peace of mind as well if we were told the season is finished and that we were hoping to return at a later date, whenever that may be. That would allow us, especially the players, to go into holiday mode a wee bit. Nobody has done that yet because the authorities are still deciding what to do so we all need to be ready to go. It is tough for the players to keep ticking over physically in the circumstances but it is also tiring mentally. So I would like clarity.”

With so many players around the country furloughed and players subjected to the same social distancing rules as everyone else, maintaining fitness levels has been testing. As well as the usual routines being turned upside down and inside out, like others they have the added strain of dealing with home schooling, caring for family and dealing with the gnawing worry and ongoing uncertainty.

And, with down time between the end of one season and the beginning of another already limited, Ross says it would be unfair to keep players in limbo for much longer, before forcing them to see out the existing campaign or fire headlong into the next without time to recharge.

Not like being on holiday

“At the moment the players are furloughed so it is entirely up to them but I know that they are still following programmes, still training, still looking to improve themselves, looking at tactical stuff etc because they don’t know if they will still have to play the rest of this season. So, although they are at home, it is not like being on holiday. In normal circumstances you do switch off and go away because it is a change of scenery and does feel like a break and allows people to switch off. Without that it does get a bit draining, mentally as much as physically, over the course of a long season.

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“A little bit of certainty is probably what everyone would like. But we will have to see what happens.”

But Ross is happy with the way Hibs have handled a tough few months, particularly the way senior staff liaised with him and captain David Gray to ensure the wage deferments agreed between the club and players and coaches were acceptable to all.

But he knows there are more challenges ahead, with budgets expected to tighten as the lack of crowds and hospitality pile on the financial strain and some contracts come up for renewal.

Take it as it comes

“For those kind of reasons, it is very different to what would normally be happening as we into the close season. But I have been through enough now as a manager to just get on with things. I have always said that my job as a manager is to make the best of what I have. Whatever shape the squad is in, the challenge is to get the best from them.

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“We don’t have a huge amount of players out of contract so we have a fair degree of stability within the squad. It is more a case of being generally keen to get family back to normal first and foremost and then get back to work, because I enjoy working. But, most of all we need some certainty.”