Hibernian head coach Jack Ross is confident there will be an intensity and excitement around the Scottish Premiership from Saturday’s kick-off.
Hibs begin their campaign at home to Kilmarnock almost five months since what proved to be their final game of the 2019-20 campaign.
The Scottish game’s return comes behind closed doors and following a gradual return to training which saw players initially gather in small groups before moving to playing pre-season games, the vast majority of them between top-flight sides.
Despite the unusual circumstances, Ross believes the play will retain its entertainment factor for fans including the Hibs season ticket holders, who will be the only ones able to see their team’s first game online.
Ross said: “Like every club there have been challenges in terms of preparation and the initial part particularly was very different.
“But when we went into full training it became normal, other than the length of inactivity the players had and then the challenges of playing pre-season matches.
“But I feel as if pre-season has been normal on the training pitch and the players can’t complain because that’s why they do this, it’s what they love.
“And I think you will see that from the opening weekend, I think there will be an intensity around the fixtures. I think there will be fatigue in the fixtures as well, naturally, but these opening matches will hopefully provide that excitement that people have been missing for so long.”
While there are detailed health and safety protocols to follow, including Killie players changing in makeshift facilities behind the goals, Ross admits the lack of atmosphere will be the biggest difference.
“There will be a period of adjustment for players and teams,” he said. “Some players will benefit, some will probably find it challenging but I’m sure they will adjust.
“But we would all yearn for the return of supporters as soon as possible.”
Another change will be the ability to make five substitutions during a maximum of three stoppages, a rule introduced on Thursday.
Ross said: “The length of time on the pitch has not been that different to a usual pre-season.
“The five subs is what it is. People have a difference of opinion on whether you agree with it or not. I don’t think it makes a huge difference to our planning for the games.
“I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary, but we have it now so we just have to adapt to it.”
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