Brian Rice has experienced death and tragedy in his career but the coronavirus pandemic is giving the Hamilton head coach his toughest season yet in football.
Accies are still without Jamie Hamilton and Andy Winter for Tuesday’s trip to Aberdeen after the pair were instructed to self-isolate following a positive Covid-19 test for Scotland Under-19s coach Billy Stark. Hamilton later tested positive himself.
Hamilton have lost several players at other times this season, including defender Lee Hodson when his flat-mate, St Mirren goalkeeper Jak Alnwick, tested positive.
Former Nottingham Forest midfielder Rice experienced the loss of two players he coached at Falkirk and faced up to gambling problems but he is finding the uncertainty of the coronavirus crisis difficult to deal with.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I have been through a lot. I’ve been through the Hillsborough disaster, I’ve been through Craig Gowans dying, Chrissy Mitchell dying, my own personal problems. And this is tough. This is tough.
“This is the toughest season football wise. There’s no doubt about that. And it will be the same for every other manager, because we don’t know what tomorrow brings, we don’t know what tonight brings. It’s so, so strange.
“A Scotland Under-19 match got cancelled at half-time. We have never seen anything like this before.
“It’s very challenging. We got tested today (Monday) so I won’t know until tonight if my full squad is going to be available.
“We’ve been hit as hard as most. I’ve got two players out who were away on international duty. They go away on international duty and they are ruled out because of the Covid situation there.
“When the game was originally scheduled, Aberdeen had the problems with their players. They are all back. I have six missing now.”
The game was called off under Scottish Government instructions in August after eight Aberdeen players had to self-isolate after a night out, while Celtic also had games postponed because of Boli Bolingoli’s overseas trip.
More recently, Motherwell have had two matches postponed in quick succession after their opponents, Kilmarnock and St Mirren, were unable to field a team because of a Covid outbreak.
Rice is keen to see matches played whenever the circumstances allow it.
Rice said: “There’s no point griping and groaning about it, we just get on with it. It’s going to be like that this season.
“We have cried long enough to get football back, let’s not cry to get it stopped. Let’s keep playing.
“It’s going to affect everybody sometimes, unfortunately this is the third or fourth time it’s affected us. But we just get on with it.
“We want to play football so we’ve got to keep going until it’s unsafe to do so. It’s a season like no other so we need to find a way, if it means playing three games a week, then so be it.”
Rice has problems to deal with on the park after his side went 3-0 down in three of their last four games, the latest in Saturday’s 5-3 defeat by St Johnstone.
Rice said: “It’s something we spoke about, make sure we are ready in the warm-up, make sure the game starts in the warm-up, you have got your concentration levels high.”
Kyle Munro, with a suspected broken wrist, and key attacker David Templeton will miss the trip north after joining Rice’s absentee list.
On Templeton, Rice said: “We ned to let the swelling settle down. It’s a groin injury, I think he had it before and it kept him out a while. Until we get it properly scanned, we are guessing.”
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