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Caley Thistle boss John Robertson remaining grounded over possible return of fans

John Robertson.
John Robertson.

Caley Thistle manager John Robertson is refusing to get carried away with the prospect of supporters returning to games at Caledonian Stadium.

Inverness are making primitive plans to host a crowd at their Championship home fixture with Raith Rovers on November 21, after the Highland region was placed into tier one of the new coronavirus restrictions.

The Highlanders would only initially be able to accommodate supporters in the north and south stands, which would most likely limit access to season ticket holders.

Robertson insists the gaps which would continue to be left by the lack of walk ups, away fans and hospitality packages would mean there is still a long way to go before the financial burden of the pandemic is eased.

Robertson said: “I think this pandemic has shown how vital fans are to the game in all sorts of ways.

“The support for the players during the match, and the support businesses give in terms of advertising, as well as people taking hospitality – it’s vital.

“A lot of the season ticket money has come in. Fans want to support their club and they have done that by snapping up season tickets. The walk up fans are vital as well, the away fans, and the people who take up the hospitality packages.

“That is a real big hole for all finances. What we’ve got to do is wait to see what the overall impact is.

“It will be strange if ourselves, Ross County and Elgin can have crowds up here, but the big guns in the central belt and elsewhere won’t get any at all.

“I’m sure Scot Gardiner and the chairman will have a really good look at the implications and see what we can do. We will digest the information that comes from the Scottish government.”

Scot Gardiner and Caley Thistle manager John Robertson.

Robertson insists he would only endorse the return of crowds to matches if it can be done without risking an increased spread of the virus.

He added: “This is just a personal view, but whilst the fans returning to stadiums is important to all clubs, it has to be done with safety.

“We can’t just say we are getting them back in and that’s it. If you looked abroad at Italy and Germany, they allowed fans back in and the virus kicked off again through these events.

“You worry if that’s going to happen to the UK or Scotland any time soon, because the second wave of the pandemic in those countries seems to have got worse.

“The most important thing is people’s lives – we can’t get away from that. Football is an industry under pressure, as is hospitality and other industries.

“We are no different. We need help, there is no doubt it’s going to be a tough winter for a lot of clubs.

“But the important thing is not to look too far ahead. Life is far more important than the economy in my mind.”

Shane Sutherland is one of nine Caley Thistle absentees.

Inverness still have a lengthy injury list ahead of tomorrow’s Championship game against Arbroath, with eight senior players sitting out last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Ayr United.

The Highlanders were without Shane Sutherland, Aaron Doran, Sean Welsh, Kevin McHattie, James Vincent, Miles Storey, David Carson and Lewis Toshney, while defender Brad Mckay was withdrawn with a hamstring injury.

Robertson is hopeful of having some players back for tomorrow, with the Caley Jags boss targeting the Betfred Cup tie against East Fife on November 14 for the majority of his squad to be back in place.

Robertson added: “We’ve got a couple who trained on Thursday that we’re hopeful about.

“I’m hopeful that by 5pm on the Saturday after the East Fife game, that we’ll have the majority of our players back and playing with a lot of minutes under their belts going into the next phase of league action.”