Caley Thistle manager John Robertson has opened up on the extent to which his own mental health has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Inverness have been back in action since October, following a seven-month absence from competitive football after last season was ended due to the pandemic.
Caley Jags will be able to keep playing amid the latest national lockdown, after the top two leagues were allowed to continue on the provision clubs carry out testing.
Robertson says he has done all he can to be a comforting presence for his players during the pandemic, but admits he has personally struggled with the devastating impact the virus is having on the world.
Robertson says the pandemic has even briefly left him questioning his own future in the game, and he said: “I have been very down at times. I have struggled with my own mental health, because I’ve had all these added pressures to deal with.
“As a manager I do my best to try and help my players, but who helps me?
“I’m lucky I’ve got a great relationship with the board and the CEO, and we have various chats.
“But there have been half a dozen times since March where I have felt really low. Sometimes I have questioned whether I want to keep going, because it’s just been so hard seeing what’s happening in the world at the moment.
“It doesn’t last very long, you go again. But I would be a liar to say it has not affected me.
“You find this inner strength as a manager to keep working hard, and keep making sure your players are OK. You ask about their family to make sure their wives and children are OK, and their relatives.
“It’s tough going. I’m not different to anyone else, because we are all going through the same thing.
“There’s obviously more profile placed on football at times.”
Robertson says his role as Caley Jags’ manager has taken on an added dimension this season, due to the problems the pandemic has caused his playing squad.
He said: “This has been without the hardest calendar year to manage. I’m sure other managers would say the same.
“First and foremost as a manager, my concern is my players’ health and wellbeing. It has been difficult.
“As a manager you deal with a lot of things – fallouts with their partners, financial problems, their cars breaking down. There are a million and one things.
“Add all that together and throw in a pandemic that is killing people, it’s very difficult.
“We have had players up here who haven’t seen their families for 10 months.
“I haven’t seen my own children for 10 months, or my granddaughter who was born in November.
“We all accept that and get on with it, but it has been very difficult.”
Robertson has questioned the morality of the Scottish FA’s decision to continue Championship football, which did not previously require testing, and believes second-tier players are being put at risk due to commercial interests.
Robertson added: “It was a statement that didn’t sit at ease with me. I can understand why the likes of the Highland, Lowland and East of Scotland Leagues are all being suspended, and then it was League One and League Two.
“They are not testing, and neither is the Championship. This is me just shooting it out here, but what reason was there not to stop the Championship for three weeks as well if they were stopping the two other non-tested leagues?
“We’re hearing it is worse now in terms of cases and deaths than it has ever been.
“Everybody was shut down in March, but not everybody is being shut down now.
“From a humane perspective, why should football players be the guinea pigs?
“We are carrying on because we are on TV and the Championship has Friday night games.
“It’s not worth a fortune to the clubs, it’s worth around £5,000 per club each season in the Championship, and because of this we are being told to carry on.
“I’m sorry, but if they’re putting TV deals before players’ welfare and lives, as well as the huge support staff behind clubs, that can’t be right.”