St Mirren battle on in preparation for the visit of champions Celtic  

The Paisley team are still dealing with the effects of a Covid-19 outbreak denying them three goalkeepers last match

St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin has sympathy from his opposite number at Celtic
St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin has sympathy from his opposite number at Celtic Credit: PA

The Scottish Premiership will – Covid-19 permitting – fulfil its eighth fixture card at the weekend, but the fragility of its timetable was emphasised when three positive coronavirus tests were registered at Hamilton Academical, where training was suspended for the day while the Fountain of Youth Stadium was deep cleaned.

The three positive tests were confirmed to have come from players. Lee Hodson, the Hamilton ­defender, was already self-isolating after his flatmate, Jak Alnwick, had tested positive.

Alnwick was one of the three St Mirren goalkeepers who were required to quarantine themselves ahead of last Saturday’s home game against Hibernian, for which Saints were forced to take Zdenek Zlamal on loan from Hearts for a fixture which ended in a 3-0 defeat. St Mirren should have played Celtic on Aug 12, but that encounter was postponed because Celtic defender Boli Bolingoli had made an overnight trip to Spain without telling anyone at the club and then played against Kilmarnock.

That particular wheel has almost turned full circle, with Bolingoli offloaded to Istanbul Basaksehir on a season’s loan, presumably never to return to Glasgow as a Celtic employee, while St Mirren’s deferred date with the champions is to be played on Wednesday evening.

The Paisley team are still without Alnwick and his deputy, Dean Lyness, but their third-choice keeper, Peter Urminsky, has been cleared to play against Neil Lennon’s side although the 21-year-old Slovakian will be on the bench, with Zlamal in action again.

The decision of the Scottish Professional Football League not to postpone the weekend fixture has been the subject of much comment, with St Mirren’s former chairman, Stewart Gilmour, declaring neither Celtic nor Rangers would have been forced to play in such circumstances. Jim Goodwin, the St Mirren manager, was not enchanted either but, as he prepared for Celtic’s visit, he took a longer view.

“I’d be surprised if every club isn’t affected at some stage,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of stop-start situations and positive tests and the clubs that can handle these situations best will be the most successful.

“The players are fine now, but on Friday, we all subconsciously thought the game was going to be off and a number of the players were concerned about whether they had the virus themselves, but we’ve got to suck it up, put what happened behind us and deal with two massive games coming up against Celtic and Dundee United.”

Opposite number Neil Lennon expressed fellow feeling for Goodwin’s plight. “It was unprecedented, really, and the chances of something like that happening are ­something like 5,000/1,” he said.

“I’m not convinced that calling the game off would’ve been an ideal scenario either but, of course, I can totally sympathise with Jim’s situation and it obviously had an effect on their result. Bringing in a goalkeeper so close to the game, with no time to work with the other players, is extremely difficult.

“People are sometimes going to get this virus whether they are doing the right things or not, I think. You have to have contingency plans in place. I’m not saying St Mirren didn’t, but that’s totally out of the blue what happened to them. What happened to us was out of the blue.

“Everyone is learning as we go along with this thing, whether it is football clubs, boards, associations or governments.” Celtic, of course, were awarded last season’s Scottish championship by virtue of the average points per game method after the campaign had been truncated, but Lennon believes that the process should not be repeated.

“To do it once probably wasn’t satisfactory to anyone, but for it to happen again would be unpalatable and not good for the game,” he said. “You want to avoid it, but in my own view, we’ll probably get a second spike of this, because it seems to be the way these things pan out.

“We have to try to live with it the best we can. People have got to try to get back to as normal a life as ­possible, without being reckless.”