Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor revealed that Covid rampaged right through the entire player pool of the Scottish Premiership club.
Sunday’s home tie against Dundee was cancelled on Friday after the Staggies confirmed it was as a result of players continuing to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 infection which swept through the club this month.
This forfeited match means, for the second time in this season’s competition, County have suffered a 3-0 defeat as per SPFL rules.
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— SPFL (@spfl) July 16, 2021
Last weekend’s game at Forfar was wiped out as the Staggies shut down its football operations for 10 days. It now means County cannot qualify from Group C, which also includes Brora Rangers and Montrose.
The players and coaches returned to work this week, with manager Malky Mackay stressing that the health of his squad is his top priority.
Striker Oli Shaw also spoke about how frustrating it had been for the group, who had been careful to follow the protocols.
Heavy flu-like symptoms hampered training attempts
MacGregor revealed attempts to train were thwarted by the lasting effects of Covid within the player pool.
He said: “We tried to train the players and we didn’t get very far, so we had them walking and waited to see whether there would be a reaction on Friday, but it is like having a very heavy flu and we just didn’t have enough players available to play the game. They hadn’t trained for 10 days.
We can confirm that Sunday's match with Dundee in the Premier Sports Cup has been cancelled as the club continues to recover from COVID-19.
— Ross County FC (@RossCounty) July 16, 2021
“This is pretty sore for the club because we can’t even qualify (from the group stages) now. However, that is secondary to the health of everyone.
“The doctor examined them all and if we had anything that affected their lungs because they were under strain after Covid it would have been a regret for the club. It was the most sensible decision (to cancel the game).
“This is the ill-effects of Covid. They came through it in stages. I think we only had three players who didn’t have it, but they had it before. It actually went through the whole system.
“That’s unusual. It didn’t happen at other clubs. At other clubs, they caught it and maybe had three or four who caught it.
“I think it happened before the Elgin game (on July 3) somehow and probably germinated maybe on the bus to Elgin or in the dressing room there. It’s been very difficult and health comes first and foremost.”
He added: “We didn’t have a case. We were more thorough than most, yet it wasn’t just three or four players (affected) – it was everyone.”
New signings should finally arrive this week
MacGregor also confirmed there are several new players waiting to join the club and this latest set-back means that’s been shelved until next week.
He explained: “We had three or four players due to come into the club last week and we couldn’t take them because for 10 days we were shut down.
“We should see those three or four players come in next week who have been waiting for 10 days for us to open up.”
Grateful game against Dundee was not a league encounter
County’s next Premier Sports Cup tie is away to Highland League champions Brora Rangers on Wednesday.
While the County chief is optimistic about County playing a team against the Cattachs, he explained that had the Dundee match been a Premiership encounter this weekend then they would have been forced to field kids who have not trained for more than a month.
He added: “We’re hopeful we could put some sort of team out for Brora. Where the challenges lie is that, had the Dundee game been a league fixture, the SPFL would have asked us to play our under-16s because they are signed players.
“However, this is the close season for the under-16s and they have been off for five weeks. So, had that been a league game, we’d have been asked to start players who hadn’t trained for five weeks. That would have been really difficult for the club as well. Thank goodness it wasn’t.
“We are disappointed as it was a live TV game against Premiership opponents. It would have given us an indication of where we are. It has given us a set-back. For players coming in, there are also at least 10 days behind getting to know their team-mates.”
Ross County have confirmed press conferences to preview the Brora match are set for Monday, which is an indicator that they are confident the match will go ahead.