One Dundee United WhatsApp group chat and a plethora of questions about the fate of the football season.
That’s the reality for Lawrence Shankland and his Tangerines team-mates as their hopes of lifting the Championship title, and promotion to the Premiership, hang in the balance.
A month ago, in simpler times, United manager Robbie Neilson and his men were dealing with a 2-0 away defeat to Dunfermline.
The focus now is simply finding a way to finish the 2019/20 campaign, derailed by the Covid-19 outbreak.
On Friday, representatives of United – 14 points clear of second-placed Inverness Caley Thistle –were amongst those involved in a series of conference calls between all 42 SPFL clubs and league chiefs.
No decisions were made regarding the season’s conclusion however it is understood there will not be any action until August at the earliest.
In separate interviews over the weekend, Shankland spoke sincerely about the uncertainty.
The 24-year-old told the Sunday Mail: “We obviously want to get the games finished and play the season out.
“But we know there are more important things in the world right now than us getting a trophy.
“That’s sad for me to say but it’s the harsh reality of the situation.
“It’s frustrating to be so close – but no one could have seen this coming. No one was prepared for it.
“Hopefully we’ll get the games played eventually and we have to make sure we’re ready. And hopefully we won’t need a lot of time to get it wrapped up.
“If the season is ruled null and void, I think I’d be in my bed for a few weeks!
“It’s all hypothetical so it’s a hard situation. But some of the boys have mentioned that ‘What if?’ question in our group chat.
“What would we do if the season had to start again and we were still in the Championship? How would the club go about that?
“It’s a hard one, until we know more. Not knowing is the toughest part – that’s what’s getting to the players.
“You’d like to think every player who started the season will finish it.
“We just want the eight [remaining] games to get played. In theory, that would only take a month to finish if we played Saturday and midweek.
“We’re only four wins away from the title so we could be champions in a fortnight.
“It’s unthinkable for us not to go up now, whatever happens. It would be a sickener if the season was declared null and void.
“It’s an outcome that hasn’t really been mentioned yet by the authorities so at the moment we’re still working towards coming back on April 30 and getting the season finished.”
The SFA and SPFL could opt for an ‘as-it-stands’ conclusion to the campaign that would see the likes of United, Celtic and Raith Rovers crowned champions.
Last week former Tannadice striker Steven Thompson suggested league reconstruction – that would see his old side promoted to the top flight – was the way forward.
But the latter option isn’t one that appeals to Shankland, the Championship’s top scorer, right now.
Speaking to BBC Sportsound, he said: “I think it would be a whole different dynamic if it was to change to a 14-team league.
“But I would like to get this league won and get promotion that way.
“I wouldn’t like to just be handed it as two teams go up. I would rather we earned our place in the league.”
The Scotland international has enjoyed a remarkable season, scoring 29 goals in 35 appearances for club and country.
He was expected to depart Dundee United in the summer, with Rangers, Celtic, Southampton, Sheffield United, QPR, Stoke City, Brentford and Nottingham Forest linked with the Tangerines hitman.
But Shankland shot down suggestions the coronavirus crisis had potentially cost him a lucrative transfer.
He said: “Not at all, it wasn’t something I was really thinking about before.
“I was just focused on hopefully getting this league won. We were kind of stuttering our way towards it with a wee bit of drop in form and not picking up great results.
“That was my main focus – to get back to winning ways.
“Obviously this interruption has caused a wee bit of a delay to that. But hopefully when we eventually get back we can start well and get it won.”
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