Hibs boss Jack Ross questions criticism of Celtic Dubai trip and insists football is an easy target

Hibs manager Jack Ross has refused to jump aboard the bandwagon of football vilification and says he has no additional health fears ahead of his team’s match against Celtic on Monday, despite the Glasgow side’s controversial training camp in the Dubai sun.

Hibs manager Jack Ross oversees training ahead of his team's trip to Celtic Park on Monday. Photo by Mark Scates/SNS Group
Hibs manager Jack Ross oversees training ahead of his team's trip to Celtic Park on Monday. Photo by Mark Scates/SNS Group

With the nation in lockdown and the rise in coronavirus cases prompting tougher every day protocols, the reigning Premiership champions have been much maligned for sticking to their plans for a warm weather escape which had already caused friction after it forced this weekend’s fixture with Hibs to be pushed back by more than 48 hours, to the beginning of next week.

It has been pounced on by critics of the game, who feel that elite leagues have been afforded too many privileges, continuing with fixtures despite so many other industries being shut down.

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But Ross does not buy into that and sees no reason why the season should be halted, saying football clubs have bent over backwards to keep everyone involved as safe as possible. Frustrated, he claims that it has been a convenient distraction, allowing those in power to continue to kick the political football about.

“Given the situation we find ourselves in as a nation and some of the things that have gone on over the past 9-10 months, some of the mistakes that have been made and the changes to what we are all doing on a daily basis, many at very short notice; the challenges we all face, not just at work but in life and in terms of how it affects, for example, children and their education, their social interaction etc, I do find it puzzling that we give so much attention to the debate around football from a political level.

“That’s probably the most diplomatic and concise way of saying it.

“It would appear at times that it’s an easy diversion or distraction.”

Adding that he does not believe that football as an industry or the people who work within it should ever be immune from criticism, with some clear mistakes being made, he defended the “good people working in football through all levels of the game and all roles who do things professionally and respectfully”, addressing the idea that football is an easy target for some.

“In my opinion, there are an awful lot of other things we could be discussing, debating and asking questions about other than some of the things that have been talked about over the past 3-4 days.

“I have to say this, and I’m not offering an opinion on Celtic being there or not, but what I’m saying is I don’t think they are the only ones to fly out there. Over the last few months, there have been a lot of people who have left this country and come back into this country, yet you want to isolate it as football.

“We all know someone who has ventured overseas. I’m quite sure of that.”

Highlighting the stringent rules that remain in place, regarding testing, travel to and from work, social distancing within the squad environment, as well as the temporary matchday facilities and ongoing absence of crowds, the Easter Road boss pointed out that while football has been given special dispensations, those have been closely aligned to costly and invasive measures.

“I don’t think they [players and football club staff] can be any more careful than they’re being. We travel to work, we work within an environment where tight protocols are in place, we’re tested twice a week – and we return home.

“The natural side of it, that has been spoken about, is people have families and take children to school etc. But that isn’t happening at the moment either.

“Look, I can only speak for one club but I don’t think you spend as much money as we have, on testing, satisfying protocols and dealing with some of the other challenges that aren’t well documented, without taking it seriously.”

He hopes that will continue to prove enough to stave off a repeat of last season’s shutdown but acknowledges it cannot be ruled out.

“We’ve been hugely respectful of the opportunity we’ve been given to get back to work and maintain that through the six or seven months we’ve been back.

“Obviously we’re delighted that we can continue. Selfishly, I get to do my job day in, day out but I’ve spoken often enough about being a fan. I love watching games, as well, when I’m not working, and I know how much enjoyment that brings to a lot of our population, so being able to carry on is a good thing.

‘It would be remiss not to believe that [a shutdown] could be a possibility. Hopefully the current actions will be enough to stabilise the situation until people become vaccinated. Hopefully those two things combined will enable us to be in a better place in the coming months.”

While the 48 hour postponement of the match with Celtic was contentious when it was granted, Ross says his players have used the time to revitalise weary legs and regroup after the recent run of three successive losses.

A side which has made the fewest changes in the Premiership this season, they also have three or four players up amongst the top seven or eight in terms of minutes played, which explains the lack of fizz in their most recent outings, according to Ross, who has welcomed the opportunity to give his men a couple of days off.

“You will always get a slight dip from some of those players. And mentally, it has allowed everybody to have a breather,” said the Hibs gaffer. “We have been quite intense about our work this season and about what we want to try and achieve but this bigger gap between fixtures has allowed us a little bit of rest time and since we have come back there has been a bit more freshness.”

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