Dundee United manager Micky Mellon has launched a strong defence of the club’s decision to take a team group photograph.
The Tangerines have been criticised, most notably by Scotland’s national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch, for having 49 members of staff and players pose for the picture during the coronavirus pandemic.
The story was exclusively revealed by The Courier on the eve of last Saturday’s game at Livingston, which United lost 2-0.
Mellon will return to the dugout after a period of self-isolation for Sunday’s home clash with Rangers.
Asked for his opinion on the photo, the United gaffer replied: “We followed all the protocols and didn’t break any.
“We were in a social bubble with all the group.
“We had two doctors in the picture, who asked the question before we had the picture. They had asked what the criteria was for having the picture taken.
“I saw a lot of criticism but people didn’t dig into the detail.
“We didn’t hang about – there were only two photographers there.
“We believed we were following protocols because other clubs had done the same.
“We didn’t set out to break any rules,” added Mellon.
“In this pandemic, people are learning as we go along.
“This was the first time a picture has been taken in a pandemic and I’m sure, unfortunately, people will learn that it’s not to be done.
“But at the time of doing it, we did it in our bubble.
“I have been here for five months and these are the only people I’ve seen. These are the people I have tested negative with for five months.
“It was a bang, bang moment and away we went.
“We followed all the necessary procedures we believed were right.”
All at risk
Mellon stressed that everyone is running “risks” as they try to cope with the challenges posed by Covid-19.
He said: “We are living our lives in a world that enables us to keep playing football.
“But we all have lives. I have a daughter at school and a wife who has go about her life.
“We are all running those risks so it could have come from anywhere.
“It’s silent and you don’t know where it is.
“We had no inkling, nobody had any symptoms and all of a sudden ‘bang’ someone tested positive and away we went.
“Anyone runs the risk of getting it. This is the second wave and it’s a dangerous time.
“That’s why the Government are doing what they are doing and why we are trying to protect each other as much as possible.”
Concern for coach
Mellon is relieved to have completed his enforced absence but he revealed that his assistant Stevie Frail is suffering from the virus.
Mellon said: “My isolation finished today (Friday) so I am all good to go for Sunday.
“I tested negative four times so it is frustrating but I understand there is a process to go through.
“Stevie Frail is still very ill, he got it and our thoughts are with him at the minute because he is very ill with it.
“It can happen anywhere,” added Mellon.
“Dundee United have had no Covid problems for seven months – none.
“The club has done everything that you have to do and if the Covid can get inside the Trident nuclear submarine then it can get in anywhere.
“We are all going through this for the first time, not just in football but in life.
“So we have tried our best to do the best we can, although it’s always going to be difficult if you lose your manager for 14 days.”
Mellon has been grateful to under-18s coaches Thomas Courts and Adam Asghar, who took training after the start of Mellon’s self-isolation period and were in the dugout at Livi passing on his instructions to the players.
Stayed in touch
Indeed, the communication lines have stayed open throughout.
He confirmed: “We kept in touch. I spoke to the players a little bit through Zoom before the Livingston game but it was difficult.
“I watched the game on the internet last weekend but it was on a delay – my missus got the news of the goal on her phone before I did watching it.
“It was very strange watching it like that but these are strange times and you just have to adapt.”
As for the game itself, Rangers come to town in what appears to be unstoppable form after winning away to Polish side Lech Poznan in the Europa League on Thursday.
Nobody needs to tell Mellon how difficult it will be to take anything from the match but he insisted: “We are looking forward to the game.
“We have some players back from their lay-off.
“There are still a few who won’t be back until Tuesday.
“But we will have enough to go out there and hopefully give a really good account of ourselves.
“It is a real challenge but one you must attack and be excited about. You have to believe if you get things right attacking and defensively, that you always have a chance.
“Of course, we know that our chances are not rated as highly as we would like outside the club.
“But we know there are ways of increasing chance within the game in order to get a positive result.”