Covid puts kibosh on traditional Celtic Huddle - 'it's their decision'

Absolutely nothing is normal for Celtic in the covid-age, as they smart from the monstrous doing over the Dubai trip.
Celtic's Callum McGregor conducts socially-distanced Huddle before Monday's Hibs game. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)Celtic's Callum McGregor conducts socially-distanced Huddle before Monday's Hibs game. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Celtic's Callum McGregor conducts socially-distanced Huddle before Monday's Hibs game. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

A fact acutely illustrated by the inability to continue their precious traditional pre-match Huddle ritual. For 25 years, just before kick-off, as a show of solidarity the club’s players have formed a circle and draped arms around one another for a pep talk from the team’s captain. That did not happen before they played Hibs on Monday, though. Instead, players stood apart to be geed-up by the armband-wearing Callum McGregor with hand gestures. Now the midfielder is unsure whether that will be the situation going forward.

The socially-distanced Huddle was a direct consequence of manager Neil Lennon, assistant John Kennedy and 13 players being forced to isolate as close contacts of Christopher Jullien, after the French defender tested positive for Covid-19 following the club’s ill-fated warm weather training camp in the United Arab Emirates. The furore prompted by a jaunt that became a vexing national and political issue leading to questions over Celtic’s social distancing during their five-day stay.

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“The club decided not to do the normal Huddle given the spotlight that was on us at that time,” said McGregor, who will again assume captaincy duties against Livingston, the isolating group not returning to the club until the coming days. "Our Covid guy, the physio and Tim Williamson asked us to do that. We just try to show and do the right things as much as possible. As the next few games come around, we will just need to look at that. For the Livingston match I will just take the directive from the club again. I will see what we can do and then take it from there. It's their decision.”

McGregor admitted that it felt wrong not to be physically bonded as a team in the Huddle. "It was strange, but I just tried to keep it short. It loses a bit of its appeal when you aren't that close together. I tried to do most of the talking before the game and then it's about the football when we get on the pitch. But the Huddle is symbolic in terms of Celtic so we want to keep that going, even we can't do it properly. We will just take it on a game by game basis.”

Directives given to players in the English game have cautioned players not to embrace even when scoring goals, another indication of football being contorted by the vicious second wave of the global pandemic. McGregor believes such steps are understandable.

"You can get why these rules are in place,” he said. “Football is probably having more cases than before during this. That's due to the second strain being more transmissable and you know the virus isn't going to stop for football games. So whether you are a footballer or you work in an industry, the virus is the same and transmits the same. People are starting to pick up on that and are looking to cut as much contact as possible. It's being done for the right reasons and anyone involved in football will know it's not as easy as just saying that. But we have to respect these guys and do it as much as we can.”

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