The outfall from the suspension of the Scottish football due to the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus will be wide ranging, but the Manager was pragmatic on what should happen next.
Derek took part in a discussion on BBC Radio Scotland on Friday evening with a number of other figures from Scottish football and gave his view on the impact on coronavirus on our game.
You can listen to the programme here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p086lwdt (Derek’s interview is around 22 minutes into the programme).
The club published some of his comments from the interview on the official club website today (Sunday 15 March 2020):
“All week we were really looking forward to the Motherwell game, looking forward to trying to get the three points, it was such an important game. Even on Thursday we trained in the afternoon before travelling and all the focus was on the actual game.
“Things then seemed to change quite quickly.
“We were all watching the news and hearing about more and more people being affected.
“Then when I woke up on Friday morning, I will be honest and say it felt wrong to be playing football. It did not feel right.
“When the decision came, I cannot say it was not the right decision. I could not disagree with it at all.
“Football is so important to us all, but it is way more important that we try and rid ourselves of this virus that is causing so much disruption and grief. We need to do what we can now to make sure that we pick up from where we left off.
“Hopefully we can be led by the government and take confidence from the experts that we will in time get back to the stage where we get back to some kind of normality.
“I do not agree that the game should have been played behind closed doors on this occasion. We thought that might have been the case because it was a TV game. But when you start to see key individuals – managers and players in England picking it up now, playing would not be right, even without supporters.
“We all have a responsibility, at my club and at all clubs. I stressed to the players today the importance of giving ourselves every chance not to contract this illness and to minimise the risk. By us going out and playing, and still being involved in a public get together, even behind closed doors, there are still people out there and people in contact. I think we are putting ourselves at risk, and until we minimise that risk and until we are sure that we are going to clear, then there is no way that we are going to be able to fulfil the fixtures.
Play to a finish
“Whatever way we do this, whenever we are able to pick the game again, whether that is two weeks, three weeks or two months or August, the season must get finished.
“As difficult as that is going to be for everyone.
“Whether that means then impacting on the following season and making that a shorter season or whatever, we cannot pretend what has happened so far has not happened. We cannot just write it off. We have got to fulfil the fixtures.
“There is going to be a huge disruption and no one knows how it is going to play out, but whenever we do decide and we are in a position to go back to playing football then the season must finish for me.
“We have to give it every chance.
“Things have escalated very quickly. Who is to say we will not get on top of this, so I would give it every chance until it is impossible to fulfil the fixtures.
“We are hoping that the government can take a bit of leadership now and postpone next weekends fixtures. We then have an international break and we don’t play again until April. We can take a break and then see where we are in a couple of weeks and see if we are in a better position.
“I don’t think we need to make any decisions at the moment, but I do think a decision to fulfil the fixtures is the right decision, whenever that is.
“We had lunch and then had a team meeting to tell the players of their responsibilities before travelling back up the road on Friday afternoon.
“We cannot now be putting the players out to a social situation. So we have also told them not to go to gyms, not to go to cinemas, not to go to restaurants. A few of them were going to a concert over the weekend, they can’t be doing that anymore. We are more or less telling them to stay in their houses as much as they can.
“The players will still be given individual training programmes to maintain their fitness. A lot of them have their own equipment at home. We are still happy for them to go out at certain times of the day and do a run – but just not at the training ground.
“We are closing the training ground down, all the professional part of it and the Academy. There will be no one at the training ground over the next nine or ten days unless we are forced to play this game next week which I can’t see happening.
“We are assuming the game with Livingston will be off next Saturday, although that is yet to be confirmed. If that is the case, the training ground will be closed until Monday 23rd of March. If things change then the players will come back in and train as normal.
“Otherwise we want the players to take a step back.
“We have told the players to take responsibility for their own actions and hopefully then a collective effort can then help the situation by not contracting the virus and then we can be in a position in a few weeks’ time to pick up the fixtures.
“If we don’t take responsibility and don’t take ownership of trying to avoid these situations and minimising the risk then there is a chance that we are going to get to a stage where the season will not get finish in time and then there are some very difficult answers to come up with. I just don’t know how they would do it.
“But as I have said, the season should be concluded to decide winners and losers in the league and cup competitions. We are in a semi-final and we want to win a Scottish Cup. We are deserving of that chance because that is what we set out to do.
“We have all got to take this seriously to try and do all we can, do our bit, so when we do go back to training, and hopefully that is sooner rather than later, we are in a position where the country, not just Scottish football, is in a healthier place.”