JACK ROSS has spoken of the emotional conversations he and Scott Allan shared as the Hibernian midfielder’s career hung in the balance, insisting the long-term well-being of his player was always only primary concern.
Speaking to Sky Sports on Friday morning, Allan revealed that his five-month absence from first-team duties this season was due to a heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
After a relatively bleak initial prognosis, the former Dundee United and Celtic man — father to five-year-old Zac and already managing Type 1 diabetes — was forced to consider that he may never play again.
“My priority was always Scott’s wellbeing, physically and mentally,” explained Ross. “It’s another example of the job that not everyone sees. They don’t always understand the things you have to keep private and deal with internally.
“He and I spoke regularly at length about all the possibilities and some of those conversations were quite emotional.
“He’s a young man and a father, and we had to speak about all the potential consequences. But it was more about Scott’s well-being as a person and his return to health first and foremost.”
During his enforced, lamentable hiatus, Hibs sought to keep Allan involved in myriad ways, most notably shadowing the coaches on the training field and carrying out scouting assignments for Ross.
“Mentally we did a lot with him at the beginning to keep him involved and keep him busy,” adds Ross. “We felt it was the right thing to do, to keep him busy and keep him involved.
“We had him on the mic in the stand, feeding information down to us during games, plus he would come in and we would talk to him about what we were doing during training and he would go and watch games for us
“We felt it was a good way to keep him engaged and keep him mentally busy — and also make him feel he was contributing.
“I think it was maybe another aspect of football that goes unnoticed in terms of that responsibility to look after people in the game.”
However, Allan’s desire to get back on the grass was undimmed and, following a second opinion from a cardiologist in New York in November, a plan was formulated which would allow him to resume training.
His progress was painstakingly plotted and monitored by Hibs’ medical staff — notably club doctor Duncan Reid and head of medicine and sports science Nathan Ring — and Ross believes they deserve to be lauded.
“I’m the person generally put in front of the cameras to speak but there are a lot of things that get done at football clubs that aren’t my doing,” he continued. “I am very fortunate that I inherited a really good medical department; one that I absolutely trust.
“I had regular dialogue with them to voice some of my concerns and things we had to go through. They had to put together a robust plan for Scott, get him to buy into that and we all had to acknowledge that we had to fulfil certain criteria.
“Scott, I’m sure, would speak of his appreciation for what they did in terms of putting the plan in place and building him up, not getting impatient and making sure that he was ticking the boxes — genuinely making sure that we weren’t putting him at risk.”
Ahead of a crucial — but far from life-or-death — encounter with Hamilton this afternoon, Ross reflected on Allan’s journey this season.
“It puts football in perspective,” he added. “The game is such a big part of people’s lives in Scotland and it dominates a lot of discussion points, but it is human beings that are involved.
“I think in terms of giving perspective to everyone, to ensure that we don’t get too down with some of the challenges that it offers, in that respect, it has been a good thing.”