Celtic manager Neil Lennon has admitted to concerns over the mental health of his players as they try to adapt to life without football during the coronavirus pandemic.
Scottish football has been suspended since 13 March, two days before Lennon’s squad were due to face Rangers at Ibrox in an Old Firm showdown.
With their quest for a quadruple domestic treble placed in limbo, the Scottish champions have been issued with individual training programmes to undertake at home. But with a return to action appearing unlikely for several months, Lennon fears for how players will cope with such a dramatic disruption to their normal way of life.
“I’m trying to keep in touch with the players,” said Lennon. “Our fitness team has given them individual programmes. My worry with them is they’ll be like caged animals at the minute.
“They are used to a regimented way of life, a great life and a healthy life. I’m worried not just about their physical wellbeing, but their mental wellbeing as well. A lot of them will be very frustrated with pent-up energy and you can only do so much when training at home. It’s trying to make the best of a very bad situation.
“I contacted a few of the boys who are back home in different countries just to get in touch and see how they are. I’m also on the phone to [chief executive] Peter [Lawwell] most days for updates.
“Once a game the magnitude of a derby was postponed, you quickly realised this is real.
“We were well aware and well briefed on that. We were trying to get them into train at Lennoxtown in twos and threes, but we had to stop that as well under the guidelines from the government and the association. It’s just a question of time now and taking it day by day as opposed to trying to plan anything.”
Lennon, who has experienced his own well-publicised struggle with depression, will urge anyone who is struggling with the situation to open up.
“Mentally, it will be difficult for them,” he added. “Not, of course, in comparison to the people who are suffering with this virus. But there will be pent-up energy living without their structured and routined life. They haven’t had time to plan for this or get their heads around, so basically they have to treat it as a holiday. Even though they can’t travel or go anywhere, they need to do that because when we go back, I think it will be a prolonged period of football after that.”