Dunfermline Athletic

Supporters will be a big miss

Wednesday, 22nd Dec 2021

22/12/21: JH - “It is frustrating that we will not be playing in front of supporters but we understand that it needs to be done for the better of the country.”

Football has been plunged back into crisis after the latest covid restrictions announced by Scottish Government included capping attendances at 500, clubs are considering the implications that basically mean that Championship matches will be back to playing behind closed doors.

The upcoming games which would be affected during the Festive period include the home matches against Arbroath and Inverness Caledonian Thistle and the Fife Derby away to Raith Rovers. The Dunfermline manager John Hughes has echoed the frustrations of the Scottish football community stressing that the game needs supporters but he fully respects the people that are making the decisions.

“I don’t think when you’re making these big decisions you’ll please everyone and get everything right. We’re fully respectful of Covid, people have lost loved ones and we just want to be playing football. We want to be playing football in front of our supporters. As the great man said, ‘football is nothing without supporters’.”

As Christina Rossetti’s seasonal song suggests we are in a bleak midwinter.
Frosty wind made moan and Hughes feels at this moment we need to batten down the hatches and need to stick to the protocols. He outlined the club’s measures:-

“We are testing every day and taking more precautions with showering and kit. We are asking the players to bring their own food. The whole club is in transit and we just have to get on with it. It is still not a hardship by no stretch of imagination. You are still turning up, doing something that you love and doing your training - we are just asking them to take responsibility. If they are travelling, travel themselves. We have put everything in place that we can.

“All the staff are getting their boosters and I will get mine on Wednesday night. We are all trying to play our part to help with what is going on. We have to lead by example. We are doing everything that we can but it is frustrating that we will not be playing in front of supporters but we understand that it needs to be done for the better of the country.”

In the previous lockdown no one knew what to expect but John Hughes has experience of playing matches in front of no fans. A year ago on 23rd December 2020 his first game as manager of Ross County he took his team to Parkhead where they played in front of no crowd and I said to Lenny, ‘this is not football’.

“It really hit home and it was difficult for the players. I think some clubs maybe thrived on it, some clubs struggled. We need to keep our focus and keep looking forward and what will be, will be. As the games keep coming we need to take it one game at a time. We are still in that fight, we have to win games to get out of that bottom half of the table.”

That fight might not be helped any if as the Pars boss fears the current 21 day shut out of fans from games was stretched to longer:-

“I’ve got real worries and I’m really frustrated. I know what this club’s all about. When you’re coming here you instantly know the club, the community and the history. There is a real connection. You look back seven years ago when the club was struggling in administration. The stuff that went on with the supporters groups to keep this club alive, it was remarkable.

“It is their club, we are only passing through, it’s their club. I just really feel for the supporters, all these guys that do it for the club, it’s that release they get on a Saturday and when they’re not there you feel it.

“You feel it as a coach and I’m quite sure that the players will feel it as well. Some players might thrive on there not being a crowd but your top players want to do it. It’s a stage and you’re an entertainer. You need an audience and footballers are no different. 

“When fans are not there it is a massive disadvantage, especially when you’re at home and I am worried it might go on a little bit longer but I am also fully aware and respectful of people and families that have all been affected by Covid.”

There are also the financial repercussions of the shut out to consider but the gaffer is fully aware of that and so is the club. He continued:-

“In terms of that, we just need to play our part. It’s going to affect the club, like most clubs. We’re a club in the Championship at the moment and I would hate to think what it does to your top clubs, Celtic and Rangers - the revenue that they’ll be losing. You are talking about 60,000 fans, we’re down to 5,000 but’s all relevant. It’s very, very hard.

“You don’t know what the future holds, it is a bit of a worry and concerning, is it going to have an impact on where we’re going? Is it going to slow us up? As the manager of a football club you have to play your part and there has to be an understanding that if the club does feel the pinch then you might just have to work with what you’ve got.

“I’m no different from any other football club, there might be clubs that takes the gamble and get loans and all that stuff. I work very closely with the chairman and if he says we need to pull in the reins a bit, then fine.”

Commenting on the reported circuit breaker request by Kilmarnock Football Club John Hughes confirmed that at this moment he is being guided by what his chairman is telling him:-

“We’re all frustrated, we all want to play football but we want to play football in front of supporters. If we had a Covid outbreak we would be on our backside.

“In the meantime we need to keep our head down and keep battering away.
The decision makers will not get it right for getting it wrong and we`ll just go along with the Scottish football. If these decisions are getting made we’ll go along with it and give each other support.

“As you get to an age where you mellow, you’re appreciative of and respectful of other clubs` needs and demands, and managers and players. If Kilmarnock said that and saying it for the right reasons, if its for the best of Scottish football we’ll back that.”

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