Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager Robertson cautious of injury risk ahead of pre-season friendly against Elgin City
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John Robertson is wary of players facing a heightened risk of injury as they resume friendly and competitive matches for the first time in six months.
The Caley Thistle manager welcomed back to training one of the leanest-looking Inverness squads in memory after much of the squad channelled lockdown energies and frustrations into fitness and healthy diet.
But with a closed doors double-header against Elgin City now in store, kicking off at Borough Briggs on Saturday, Robertson admits he will be on high alert for signs of muscular stress or damage amid an unprecedented scenario for his professionals.
“We just need to be careful because normally it’s a five or six week break, but now it’s five or six months,” he said.
“Their general physical fitness is very good. Everyone has lost weight, some of them a considerable amount, but a lot of the stuff they have been doing is straight line running, five, six or seven-mile stuff.
“That is fine for general fitness, but as everybody knows there’s physical fitness and there’s football fitness.
“That’s very much the mechanics of the game, using different muscles to pass it, run, twist and turn. Since returning, we have been concentrating on that aspect, but without overdoing it. We’ve tried not to give them too much too quickly.
“It’s very much a suck it and see at times in each session. We’ve got to use our experienced eye and say ‘they’re tiring a wee bit so let’s stop it there’, or ‘they are doing okay so we can do a little bit extra.’
“We have done what we needed to do, test-wise, to see where they were in terms of increased demand and heart rate.
“We are now mixing it up with a lot of ball work, so the next bit is arguably the toughest part.”
There will be zest and enthusiasm among ICT players as they return to action, but Robertson will rein them in at times.
“People have to understand they’ve not actually kicked a football for six months,” he said. “We’ve got to be careful in how we load the short to longer passing, the crossing and shooting.
“With matches, we are going to have to be very careful. We’ve got to make sure we don’t do any serious muscle injuries.”
ICT and Elgin will cross swords again on October 3 at the Caledonian Stadium.
“I spoke to Elgin manager Gavin Price and it suited us both,” Robertson said. “Now we can play other non-testing teams, we can fit in two or three Highland League friendlies and then we will go down to Tynecastle in the League Cup and give it a go.
“We will fit in another friendly between that and the Cowdenbeath game, but our main focus is to be ready for Dunfermline at East End Park in the league.”