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Paul Hartley: Covid a nightmare no club can avoid

Cove Rangers manager Paul Hartley.
Cove Rangers manager Paul Hartley.

Cove Rangers manager Paul Hartley believes Covid has become a nightmare situation which every manager and player has had to learn to live with in Scottish football.

The League One side’s preparations for the new season have been hampered by players having to isolate at Balmoral Stadium resulting in all three pre-season friendlies against Aberdeen, Forfar and Fraserburgh being cancelled.

Cove are not alone in seeing their preparations affected in pre-season and Hartley expects more incidents for clubs in the weeks and months ahead.

He said: “Covid disrupted last season for all the clubs and it is a nightmare situation for managers and players.

“It is something we’ve had to deal with but we’re not the only club. If anything we’ve been extra cautious to make sure everyone stays safe.

“We test before every training session and when we play matches while everyone is doing their best to look after themselves away from the club.

“But it just shows that no matter how hard you try to follow the rules the risk is still there and it can have a big impact.

“Look at Ross County. They’ve had to shut down their training altogether this week and have had to forfeit their opening game on Saturday.”

Losing players to isolation has been disruptive but Hartley is grateful none of his players have shown any symptoms as they prepare to get their season underway against Stirling Albion in the Premier Sports Cup on Saturday.

He said: “Every club is going to go through this in some shape or form. None of the players have been ill but the guidelines are there for a reason and we have followed the rules.

“We’ve been training. We had a session on Tuesday and have another one tonight and we’ll be pretty close to a full squad for the game on Saturday.

“Even though we haven’t played and a few are coming to the end of their isolation the players are in great condition physically.

“I just hope we’re lucky and this is our scare out of the way early. You don’t want this to happen at any point but the best time would be before a ball has been kicked.”

Cup games now vital preparation

Hartley has worked hard to ensure his players are ready for their opening group game against the Binos on Saturday but he believes Saturday’s match and the other group games against Hearts, Peterhead and Caley Thistle have taken on greater significance ahead of the new campaign.

He said: “We’ve always approached the games in this competition as an extended part of our pre-season preparations but given we haven’t played a game yet these matched have become even more important for us now.

“We have a free date on July 24 which we are trying to arrange a friendly for so we can squeeze in another game.

“We had Stirling watched last weekend and we’ve looked at a few things. We’ll work on some other details at training but we’ll be ready for Saturday.

“Despite what has happened we’re looking forward to these games. We’re in a good group, all the games will be competitive and we’re looking forward to it.”

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