FOR historians looking back on this period, BC may one day come to take on a new meaning: Before Coronavirus.

Already events that took place just two months ago feel like they belong to a different era entirely. Was it really just in March that we were packing into football stadia, shaking hands with everyone and going about what was considered our normal business? All feel like completely alien concepts already.

It is little surprise, then, that Steve Clarke looks back on this time last year as if peering nostalgically into childhood memories. It was a seismic period in his professional life as one door closed at Kilmarnock – with Clarke picking up a raft of managerial awards on the way out – and another opened with the national team at Hampden.

For a myriad reasons the subsequent 12 months have not passed entirely as he would have hoped or liked. Scotland are still in with a shout of reaching the rearranged European Championships next summer if they can navigate a way beyond Israel and then either Serbia or Norway in the play-offs, and that will be Clarke’s focus when that time eventually comes around.

For now, however, football is very much secondary in his thoughts as he reflects on a tumultuous year.

“It was a terrific end to the season for Kilmarnock and to finish third in the manner we did, in front of our own fans, was a moment I will never forget,” he said. “But it was also draining. I had no real time to draw breath on such a tense climax before I was offered the privileged opportunity to manage my country.

“I think there was 48 hours between addressing the fans at full time against Rangers after finishing with the highest points tally in Kilmarnock’s history, to saying goodbye to [chairman] Billy Bowie and the players, hello to [Scottish FA chief executive] Ian Maxwell and then having less than a week to put together a squad for the qualifiers against Cyprus and Belgium.

“I can look back now and enjoy the moment and the recognition from the Scottish Football Writers Association and PFA Scotland for the success we had as a team – the players, coaches and staff – at Kilmarnock.

“I also said I wanted to be back up on the stage in a year’s time [at the awards] because it would have meant qualification for Euro 2020 but a lot has changed in that 12 months.

“The most important thing at the moment is to put the situation Scottish football finds itself in into perspective. Covid-19 has changed life for us all and our immediate thoughts must be with those who have lost loved ones, or who have taken ill.

“We also need to truly appreciate the efforts of our NHS in keeping us safe and the other key workers are who helping us to get through these difficult times.

“I have purposely avoided interviews throughout because discussing football, or the selfish impact on us as coaches clamouring for the dug-out, seems inappropriate: there are far greater priorities in life right now.”

Clarke admits he has found international management difficult at times but felt it wasn’t the right time to be grumbling unduly.

“It’s been a challenge, I’m not going to lie,” he added. “But it pales into insignificance compared to people who have lost their jobs, who are on furlough, whose businesses are uncertain. It is trivial compared to those who are working day and night on the NHS frontline to keep people alive. So it’s not about coping, it’s about respecting the fact this pandemic is bigger than all of us and you have to do what everyone up and down the country is doing: heeding the advice, protecting your family, staying home and finding a new-found enthusiasm for fence painting and other domestic chores that you had previously always find a way of avoiding!”

Clarke has kept in touch with the Scottish FA throughout the crisis but has left the players mostly to themselves for now. But he is eager to one day get back out there on the training ground.

“I think we are now more used to keeping in touch via Zoom or WhatsApp but I feel that works better in a club environment, since domestic football will return before the international games.

“Lockdown as a result of COVID-19 is a time for people to look after their immediate families and stay healthy.

“I’ve kept in touch with the Scottish FA and get sent updates on what’s happening – I even took part in the Friday night quiz. It’s important players look after their families, prepare for returning at the appropriate time and I look forward to seeing them all in the flesh when it is safe to do so.”