Ross County manager eyes friendlies in England or Ireland
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ROSS County could venture to England or Ireland next month in search of quality opposition for friendlies.
With the Highland League, Championship and lower SPFL leagues all likely to be mothballed until October at least, Premiership clubs returning to action in August will be denied the usual range of domestic warm-up options.
In recent seasons, County have visited the Netherlands, Spain or Hungary for pre-season training and competitive match preparation.
But while Celtic manager Neil Lennon spoke recently of possibly organising an overseas venture in July, the Staggies are unlikely to follow suit.
With the Covid-19 crisis rendering international airports far from safe and controlled environments, manager Stuart Kettlewell has been investigating alternatives closer to home.
He said: “We’re trying to be as proactive as we possibly can with this and we’re looking to see if we can exercise as many different options as possible.
“Whether that be looking cross-border down to England to try to play a friendly or two, or whether we look across to Ireland, we’ll have to see.
“That way we have a different type of opposition and we’ve always said it is good to play different types of teams along the way, presenting different challenges and different types of football.
“It is certainly going to be challenging and difficult this year. We normally have all that mapped out by now, but we just have to make do with the best of a bad situation.”
Kettlewell is delighted at how the first fortnight of non-contact work with the players has gone since joining Celtic as the first Scottish teams to return to the training ground. County’s much-vaunted South Korean testing equipment has so far thrown up only negative results for the virus.
Kettlewell said: “We intend to go into an 11 versus 11 bounce game on Saturday all being well.
“We can go into that non-contact environment, hopefully, with another round of negative testing.
“From there, we’re looking to see if we can pitch in a couple of different games.
“The worst-case scenario is we play an 11 against 11 in-house and condition games in such a way as we try to get them as close to a Premiership game as we possibly can. That’s difficult, but I’d say probably the last couple of days have started to look a wee bit more positive looking into July and seeing how we might take up a couple of opportunities for different games and different challenges.
“It has been really positive, because we were wondering how players and staff were going to react to such a lengthy lay-off.
“We have certainly not been used to that in our careers, so there was maybe a wee bit of apprehension to see how players came back.
“But the players have hit every mark that we have looked for them to go through. We have had a couple of tough-ish sessions, and I think we’re now able to go and ramp it up.”
Ross Draper, Joe Chalmers and Tom Grivosti are still recovering from knee, ankle and foot injuries respectively, with a lack of physio treatment during lockdown slowing their recoveries.
Kettlewell added: “Tom is the one who is probably furthest behind. Ross and Joe have made real good progress in the two weeks since we’ve been back and are, hopefully not too far away.”