St Johnstone chief Steve Brown has urged Scotland’s footballers to “wake up and smell the coffee” after his side’s clash with Aberdeen was called off because of positive Covid-19 tests returned by two Dons stars.
The Saints chairman admitted he was frustrated that tomorrow’s televised lunchtime clash had been rescheduled to Thursday, August 20, following further talks between the SPFL, the SFA and the Scottish Government.
Eight Pittodrie players were criticised by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today for visiting a city centre bar – one of several pubs linked to a cluster of coronavirus cases – last Saturday after their side’s defeat to Rangers.
Brown, whose team’s furious fans insist Aberdeen should be ordered to forfeit the points, told Sky Sports News: “Obviously it is disappointing but I don’t want to say too much because it could have happened to any club.
“There’s a very strict regime here, the same as every other Premiership club with the testing and protocols we have to follow.
“That’s where the frustration gets in. Because we do all that but we can’t control players when they leave the football club.
“We are hoping the players take responsibility for their own actions.
“There’s an element of players, unfortunately at every club, so I’m not going to have a pop at Aberdeen. It could happen to any of us.
“I just hope and pray the players will take it on board and wake up and smell the coffee that we are in a pandemic and you have to act accordingly.
“We have been given special dispensation from the Scottish Government. We’ve got to respect that and let’s not throw it away.”
Perth boss Callum Davidson – who learned of the postponement when Sky staff began de-rigging their kit during training – was on the receiving end of a fixture call-off last month when members of St Mirren’s backroom team returned positive Covid-19 tests ahead of their pre-season friendly.
He has called in his players on Saturday to begin preparations for Wednesday’s Premiership clash at Ibrox against Rangers.
They will have had just one competitive game against Dundee United and two friendlies against Aberdeen and Hibs under their belts before the fixture with Steven Gerrard’s men.
Meanwhile, Dons chairman Dave Cormack admitted he is grateful his side didn’t have to forfeit the Saints game.
Manager Derek McInnes was going into the match without EIGHT first-team players – the two who tested positive for Covid-19 and a further six who were also self-isolating after being in the pub with the pair.
All eyes have been on the Granite City over the last few days as far as the coronavirus in Scotland is concerned, with the First Minister increasing lockdown restrictions for seven days on Wednesday due to a spike in cases.
Bars and restaurants were ordered to close, there is a five-mile travel limit for leisure activities and people from outside Aberdeen have been encouraged not to travel there.
Cormack – who has launched an investigation into what happened – said: “Given the significant Covid-19 outbreak in Aberdeen, we fully understand why the Scottish Government has made this decision in the interests of public health.
“With the pressure over this season’s fixtures, and the fact that we caused this problem, we were fully prepared to play the game. We are very grateful that the decision has been to postpone, rather than forfeit the game.
“I took the opportunity yesterday to apologise to both football and health authorities, and with our fellow premiership clubs.
“The clinical decision last night from the JRG that it was safe to play underlines the confidence the football authorities have in the robustness of our procedures and protocols.
“Regrettably, what has happened in the last few days has undermined all the hard work that has gone into keeping our players and staff safe.
“We are now dealing with this internally with the seriousness it deserves.
“In the meantime, I’d like to reassure the relevant bodies, our fans and everyone associated with the club that our already rigorous measures are being forensically scrutinised and that no stone will be left unturned in ensuring that no-one is under any doubt about what must be adhered to.”
Scottish football’s Joint Response Group (JRG) added: “Following a meeting between the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Joe FitzPatrick, the Scottish FA Chief Executive, Ian Maxwell, and the Chief Executive of the SPFL, Neil Doncaster, to further examine the circumstances around the self-isolation of eight Aberdeen FC players, a request was received from Scottish Government – and agreement reached – to postpone Saturday’s Scottish Premiership match against St Johnstone.
“There is an evolving public health outbreak in Aberdeen and the minister conveyed the need for additional work to provide further assurance around Aberdeen FC’s adherence to the agreed protocols.
“Given the overriding responsibility to public health, the subsequent advice and discussion with the minister this morning means that the Joint Response Group must adhere to the request to postpone the match.”