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Elgin City goalkeeper Thomas McHale feels lower league clubs have been “punished” for mistakes of others

Thomas McHale.
Thomas McHale.

Elgin City goalkeeper Thomas McHale feels clubs at his level are bearing the unfortunate consequences of mistakes made at a higher level.

Scottish football’s joint response group announced the suspension of all competitions below the Championship on Monday, which is effective until at least the end of this month.

That has put second-placed City’s League Two campaign on hold, with an outstanding Scottish Cup second round tie against Ayr United still to be played.

Clubs in the Premiership and Championship will be able to continue on the basis they undertake testing, which has not been required at lower league level until now.

McHale feels the lack of testing in the bottom two divisions has not created any added disruption however, in contrast to top-flight football which has faced a number of outbreaks.

McHale feels punished by the decision, and he said: “I know everything is in a bit of unrest just now so we all understand why it has been done.

“As a whole, from League One down, we are looking up at what’s happening above us, and thinking why are we being punished?

“There have been some mistakes made at the top level. I totally understand these top clubs can get tested regularly, but I guess that’s the point where money talks. At our level we don’t have the money to do that.

“Looking at the whole case of the pandemic in terms of football, it’s been a case of no real outbreaks within the lower leagues.

“I have watched numerous from general managers, directors and chairmen of football clubs.

“Everyone is saying the same thing – they have gone above and beyond to make sure these protocols were in place, and every club has done everything asked of them.

“To now be the clubs that are almost punished doesn’t make sense.

“I would like to see what would have happened if we had gone to Dubai for a training camp however. Or if we had gone out and 10 boys had got Covid, or even three or four boys had missed games due to breaking the rules.

“I think that’s just what everyone is waiting to hear now.

Celtic have been widely criticised for travelling to Dubai for a training camp.

“As long as people are safe, that is the main thing, but for them to still allow it to carry on at that top level is a bit of salt in the wounds.”

McHale says the willingness shown by part-time footballers to continue playing over and above their livelihoods makes the setback harder to take, with the 25-year-old adding: “We are all going out there, a lot of us are key workers who are working daily, and in a sense putting ourselves at risk.

“We turn up to football, train as hard as we possibly can to get our enjoyment at the weekend in such a horrible time, and now it has all been stopped.

“I feel the SFA could have come out a little bit earlier with a brief warning to clubs to say what they were going to do, and maybe say it’s no reflection on the fact we aren’t doing the right things.

“We all understand they are trying to protect people as best as possible. At a point we were maybe expecting it to happen, but up here four or five weeks ago we had fans in the ground, and now we have been completely suspended. It’s a tough one to take.”

McHale insists he has never lost sight of the privilege footballers had in being able to continue playing, and he added: “It’s a stressful time for everyone, and I understand there are a lot of people in a lot worse positions than us.

“That’s one thing we need to remember. We have been very lucky to be able to carry on.

“John McGinn was interviewed last week about the minutes players were playing, but he came back with the perfect answer by saying if he had to play 90 minutes every day he would do it.

“There are a lot of people out there who really understand how lucky we were to be playing football throughout the campaign.

“We will see how it is in three weeks, hopefully the numbers decline and maybe we can get a steady roll back on. We just have to play it by ear, and hope we can clear this up as quick as possible.”

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