Bevis Mugabi says he and his Motherwell team-mates have embraced “the new normal” that’s been thrust upon the world as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Normally this time of year is an occasion for laughter, turkey dinners, and busloads of football teams dressed up Mario Kart characters heading on a minibus for Newcastle.
Yet, this year of course is quite different. As a result of the current circumstances, no SPFL team will be racing through Glasgow Airport departure lounge looking like a squad of Smurfs bound for a budget flight to Dublin. Many instead will be at home, sitting in their own bubble, most likely firing up another Zoom quiz.
In the grand scheme of things, the Motherwell defender – and no doubt every other footballer in the country – recognises it’s a small price to pay as the world clings to hope of a return to the “old normal” soon. Until then, though, we’ll always have Zoom…
“There’s nothing in the pipeline but hopefully something will be,” said the Uganda international.
“Christmas nights out or dinners are all part of the team morale and it’s important you all celebrate Christmas, especially this year when there isn’t a winter break. It would have been nice to have something to look forward to but obviously doesn’t look like any chance of that happening.
“These nights out are normally always good. There was one in particular at Yeovil Town which I can’t go into too much detail about. Nobody got arrested but it was a good night!”
New protocols have been brought in this season across Scottish football club, and Fir Park is no exception.
A recent video from the club showed off club captain Declan Gallagher take himself through a Starbucks drive-thru for a frappucino – a grown-up strawberry milkshake – and Mugabi admits the coffee club is one thing he misses from pre-lockdown.
“It’s become the new norm for us being in our little bubble,” said the centre-half.
“It’s literally go to training, come back, go to the supermarket, then come home to your flat. It has been very different as normally we have a little Starbucks group that go for coffee after training but that’s not happening obviously.
“We’ve had to adapt but we’ve done it quite well.”
In terms of adapting on the field, it has been a frustrating few weeks that have provided unexpected ups and downs.
The sudden and late loss of both Allan Campbell to self-isolation following a Scotland Under 21 trip was hard to take, and the team struggled against St Johnstone in league and League Cup, drawing the former and losing the latter.
You can also chuck in the award of two 3-0 victories for cancelled games against Kilmarnock and St Mirren, then the 3-0 defeat to Hibernian on Saturday that could have delivered so much more.
A header off the post from Mugabi, as well as a goal ruled out that had very little wrong with it at 0-0, could have altered the fate of the match. Instead, the Uganda defender is left with not a taste of victory, but an appetite to put things right today against St Mirren.
“It was a match of two halves to be honest,” he said. “In the first half we did well, had a few chances. We obviously had the goal that was disallowed.
“In the second half we didn’t perform well and we let Hibs punish us.
“In terms of the goal that was disallowed, I was really surprised. The referee blew really quickly so he must have seen something. I think it was meant to be for a foul by Mark O’Hara on one of their players, that’s what the manager told us. When you watch it back, he clearly wins the header without fouling anyone then I knock it in.
“It was those little moments throughout the game went away from us. I also had a header that came back off the post. It was so unlucky. I thought I’d done everything right to get away from my man and connect well with the ball. When I saw it hit the inside of the post and come out I just thought ‘wow’. It was another one of those moments.”
Mugabi added: “We are going to be frustrated when we aren’t winning but we need to keep plugging away, but we know things will turn for the better.
“You can see what the manager is trying to implement on the training ground, I’ve got no doubt things will pick up.
“We are here to win games and keep picking up points, and Saturday is another good opportunity to do that.”
A dislocated shoulder ruled the centre-half out of international duty during the last window, but he watched on with a smile at team-mates Stephen O’Donnell and Declan Gallagher become heroes for Scotland.
“Anyone who knows Deccy knows he doesn’t shut up,” laughed his defensive partner.
“It’s great for the club. The energy he brings in is amazing and he deserves all the success for Scotland given how he has been played and how he also played last season.
“He got his opportunity and took it with both hands. It’s great to see that if you perform at your club it gets recognised.
“I was meant to go away in the last international break but couldn’t because of my dislocated shoulder, so hopefully I’ll be back in March.
“There’s a lot of internationalists in the defence and it’s good for the club. They are getting the credit of having us playing there and it shows to everyone you can get that recognition at Motherwell.”
By Scott Mullen.