Former Northern Ireland star Ivan Sproule has opened up about his feelings on the conclusion of the 2019/2020 Irish League season, revealing that he would find it hard to live with himself if football was brought back too early at his club Dergview and someone contracted Covid-19 because of it.
In a powerful and thought-provoking interview with the Belfast Telegraph, the Dergview boss outlined:
Sproule is proud to manage his hometown club in Castlederg. He saved them from relegation from the Championship last season and was planning to do the same this term when football was called to a halt by the Irish FA on March 13 due to coronavirus.
If you had to stand at someone's graveside and that came as a result of us going back to football too early, I certainly think if I was one of the people to vote to get it back I don't think I could live with myself.
With eight league games left, Dergview are in 10th place - six points clear of bottom club PSNI, who are in the automatic relegation spot.
For the ex-Hibernian hero, survival of a different kind is what is on his mind now.
"I would love to see the season finished but, at the same time, everyone has to recognise health is the most important thing and the safety of our club members has to come first," says straight-talking Sproule.
"I don't want to bring football back to Darragh Park and then be responsible for someone contracting the illness. I know anyone can be affected by the virus but I have real fear for the elderly people at our club.
"There is no vaccine for the virus so what's really changed from when we went into lockdown?
"I never thought I would be chatting about a situation like this in an interview and I wish I wasn't but it's here and it's real. I don't mind saying I am wary of Covid-19 and I am afraid of it.
"Dergview, as a club, has been a big part of my life for most of my life and so has football and I miss it terribly. I know my players miss it as well but we all must put our families first at this time.
"Last weekend, I cycled by Darragh Park and I was near to crying because I was thinking about the club, the players and the people normally at our ground.
"My social life revolves around the club, my wife goes to it, my kids, my mum and my family and friends. We really miss it. Well, we can miss it for another few months. What I don't want to miss is one of my family members.
"As much as we all love football, and it is our first love along with our families, it keeps going back to the safety aspect for me. If you had to stand at someone's graveside and that came as a result of us going back to football too early, I certainly think if it was to do with my club and I was one of the people to vote to get it back I don't think I could live with myself.
"It has been excellent how everyone has isolated in lockdown and done the right thing but the virus is still out there and is still killing people at this moment in time."
Sproule, a flying winger who won 11 international caps, insists that if the decision makers opt to finish this season in the coming months, Covid-19 testing procedures must be in place for players.
He says: "Like a lot of other people, I haven't set foot in my mum's house for seven weeks. From nearly calling into her house every day, I haven't been there. That's not normal.
"My brother was round at my house to talk to me about something and he couldn't come in. We had to social distance and I had to leave a cup of tea outside for him.
"Then we are thinking about going to play football and going into a changing room where there is a lot of sweat and saliva.
"If I can't bring my brother into my kitchen to have a cup of tea, how am I going to go into a changing room along with 20 players?
"Football might be going again in Germany and they want to get it going in England but that's virtually the two biggest leagues in world football with a lot of money and the clubs are capable of carrying out testing on the players and staff for the virus.
"As much as we are very proud of Darragh Park and proud of everything we have in Castlederg, we certainty can't provide a safe facility for people to return into, which I think at Championship level 90% of clubs can't do either.
"Are the IFA and Irish League going to facilitate testing at every club? Are they going to land at Darragh Park and say 'here's testing kits'? That's a question I would like answered.
"If they do decide to bring football back, the facilities have to be right and they will have to do tests. With this virus, you can have it showing no symptoms so without proper testing there could be someone in a changing room spreading it around and that's where the spread starts again.
"If they can't provide tests and safe conditions, I don't think they have the right to tell me to put my players in a changing room where one of them could possibly contract something from another and carry it home or on to the streets."
Sproule has been keeping in regular contact with his players since lockdown. He is honest enough to say in recent weeks he has found it "very difficult to keep them motivated about football."
So, what should happen if it is ruled this season must end without all the games being played?
"How do you give a title to someone when other clubs can possibly catch them? How can you relegate someone who could possibly catch teams above them? Those are really tough calls to make," says Sproule.
"I have to say I think it would be unfair to relegate teams. I also appreciate that in the Irish Premiership, European qualification money is a key factor.
"For the clubs themselves, it is nearly getting past the point to rescue this season and I know lots of people in the game are looking for guidance from those in charge.
"What must come first is health and safety. That's what matters most."