Micky Mellon admits he has never been through a more testing time in management than his first six months in charge of Dundee United.
The Tannadice boss was called in to pick up the pieces back in the summer after Robbie Neilson walked out to rejoin Hearts.
Not only did he face the daunting challenge of guiding a newly-promoted squad back into the top-flight after four years away, but there was also the added complications thrust upon him by Covid-19.
But with his side firmly in the hunt for a top-six place and a vaccine offering hope that the pandemic can be brought under control in the months ahead, Mellon can finally see light at the end of the tunnel.
The former Fleetwood, Shrewsbury and Tranmere boss said: “Coming to a new club in a transitional period as it moves up a division is in itself tough.
“But when you have that on top of the coronavirus (pandemic), then it has easily been the toughest experience of my career.
“You can’t make excuses for it. You just have to adjust and adapt.
“It’s been tough all season, getting used to all the stuff that’s been happening. We’ve had Covid to deal with, with staff and players getting it.
“The biggest blow is not getting to see our under-23 players who are out on loan. I can’t have any contact with them. They train in a different part of the training ground. They’ve missed out on six months of contact with the manager and the first-team coaches, which will affect their development.
“It’s the same with the youth team. I don’t even really know them.
“I’ve been here five months but I’m the only Dundee United manager who has never met the fans.
“All of those things, even the different atmosphere at grounds, have all been massive obstacles that are new and have had to be overcome.
“But being optimistic, we can see an end to things and hopefully we’ll be getting back to how we loved it all before soon.”
Jack Ross – manager of this weekend’s opponents Hibernian – faced his own challenges while in charge of Sunderland.
Ross was sacked by the Black Cats just days before Mellon was due to take his Tranmere side to the Stadium of Light back in October 2019.
But the Easter Road boss has shrugged off that disappointment since moving to Leith and Mellon reckons that experience could be the making of him.
“I know Jack had tough times and Sunderland isn’t the club that it has been in recent years, so it would have been a tough job for anyone,” he said.
“To be a whole manager you’ve got to go through all the experiences – promotion, relegation, being sacked.
“I’ve only lost my job once and when I did (at Fleetwood), I got a call from quite a few high-profile coaches who said to me, ‘Congratulations Micky, you’re now a manager. Now you’ve got to complete the whole circle and try to get a job again’.
“It’s not just about getting success, which my first job in management was. At Fleetwood it was just win, win, win.
“You learn what being a manager is when you lose and need to come in again on a Monday and try to go again or when you need to go and try to get a job.
“So all experiences in management help you to become a whole manager, which helps you deal with most things.”