CARETAKER boss Gavin Strachan explained why Celtic took crocked Christopher Jullien on the Dubai trip.
The towering central defender is likely to be out for the rest of the season after sustaining a knee injury in a sickening collision with a post in the 3-0 win over Dundee United just before the turn of the year.
The Hoops included Jullien in their travelling squad for last week’s warm-weaher training in the United Arab Emirates city and, unfortunately, the French ace tested positive for Covid on the club’s return to Glasgow on Friday.
The fall-out was 13 players being forced to self-isolate along with manager Neil Lennon and No.2 John Kennedy before last night’s frustrating and disappointing 1-1 draw with Hibs where a stoppage-time goal from Kevin Nisebet cancelled out a wonderful free-kick effort from David Turnbull.
The champions, who are now 21 points adrift with three games in hand, were without a recognised striker with Odsonne Edouard, Leigh Griffiths, Albian Ajeti and Patryk Klimala all ruled out.
It meant a hasty baptism for 19-year-old American Cameron Harper who lasted an hour before making way for another debutant in Armstrong Oko-Flex. Karamoko Dembele was also pressed into action late on for the exhausted Mikey Johnston who was starting his first match since January 25 last year.
The coronavirus carnage left the squad decimated, but Strachan, taking charge of the team 11 years after his dad Gordon left the club, insisted the Dubai trip was all above board – and Jullien travelled because he needed to continue his treatment.
The first-team coach, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “There’s regret that one person has caught the virus, but there’s not a regret in terms of the permission we got to go and the protocols that we followed, which we have done the whole season.
“It’s regrettable that we got one positive, which we could have got at any time.
“It’s a trip that’s been done over the last few years and it has yielded very positive results, so the thinking behind it was to maintain that and try to galvanise and push in the second half of the season.
“From me as a coach, the work we did out there was absolutely fantastic. We had more time to work on certain elements of our game because of the good weather.
“The only regrettable thing is that someone has come back with a positive test.”
Explaining Jullien’s inclusion, Strachan added: “It was to maintain his treatment with the backroom staff, he went over there so we can get him back as fast as we can.
”I can understand the frustration from everybody, because we end up playing with a weaker team, but that could have happened if we were training at home, as well.”