Russ Wilcox says there has been excellent application by the Iron’s players to their individual training programmes during the enforced break from football caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The squad have not been together since March 13th, when the Sands Venue Stadium closed as a consequence of the decision to postpone all football until early April in order to safeguard the club’s players, staff and supporters.
Last week saw the football season postponed indefinitely until the country has got back on track following the pandemic and after the lockdown has been lifted.
Wilcox, who has taken charge of the first team since the end of January, told Scunthorpe-United.co.uk: “We’ve communicated well as a staff, putting together a programme for the players to do at home. It’s very hard to replicate what you do in training and in matches when you do your work on your own, but Ben McKenzie (strength and conditioning coach) has put some excellent running sessions together, and the players have been doing that since the lockdown.
“They’re all on an app so we can monitor what they’re doing and give feedback, and I’m in constant communication with the Chairman, Jim Rodwell (CEO), all other club officials and my staff and players.
“In addition, Scott Johnson (first team sports scientist) has put together a gym-based session. Obviously, there are no gym facilities open so the players have to be adaptable with what they have around them. The results we’ve received back over the last two weeks have been excellent though.
“I can’t speak highly enough of what the players have done in adapting to this new routine. They’re in a difficult position because they don’t know when they’re going to start again, but we’ve all kept in contact and the attitude and application has been first class from everyone.”
With Wilcox’s vast experience as a player, coach and manager, he’d be forgiven for thinking he’d experienced everything that can be thrown at him during his time in the game, until recently of course.
Wilcox said: “From the football point of view, it’s been very difficult. I’ve had 30-odd years in the professional game and nothing like this has ever happened before. Hopefully it will never happen again, but you just have to take it day-by-day.
“No-one knows when the season is going to get going again, if at all - we just have to wait and see. It’s out of our hands now and it will probably be driven by government advice on the pandemic before anything is decided.
“Numerous messages have gone out about doing the right things and sticking together. It’s a team effort and that applies for everybody throughout the world. We have to make sure we do what we can to eradicate this dreadful virus.”
Russ has three members of his family in key worker positions, including son and former Iron player Joe who is now in the police, and stays in contact with them on a daily basis. He added: “As a family household, we’re taking the positives from it and spending precious time together, whilst making sure we abide by the government advice.”
Back to football, which pales in significance but of course is a key matter for the club when the game does return, Wilcox explained what he thought would be needed should this season be resumed and the Iron’s final nine league games be played.
He said: “I think a mini pre-season period will be needed, of at least a couple of weeks. The players have had no football match practice so a structure needs putting in place to prepare them for playing nine games in what you’d imagine will be a four/five-week block, so as to be as prepared as possible, and to avoid injuries wherever possible.”
Abo Eisa would have been in the squad for the game at Colchester had it gone ahead, while the rest of the injured players going into that match are all progressing well with their recoveries, although Kgosi Ntlhe (who was set to miss the rest of the season with an Achilles injury) could still be absent when football does return.
Wilcox said: “They’re improving and have made good progress during the last three-and-a-half weeks. All are on bespoke programmes. They’re all doing their rehabilitation at the moment, with physio Michael McBride, who is doing an excellent job in terms of communication and making sure they are completing their work properly. Apart from Kgosi, we should have a fully fit squad depending on when we do restart.”
He concluded with a final message to the supporters, asking them to stick to the government guidelines during the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.
Wilcox said: “We’ve all missed football and want to get it back going again, so I along with the rest of the staff at Scunthorpe United, are doing our best in the current circumstances to ensure that our players are as fit and ready as possible, both mentally and physically, for whenever there may be a restart.
“However, sadly the bigger picture is that people are losing their lives to this terrible disease so we’ve all got to do what we can to stop the spread and help to overcome it first.
“By working together as a team and all playing our part by staying at home, staying safe and listening to government advice, we can get through this and hopefully all get back to normal life. We will all look forward to football returning, but only when it is safe to do so."