Scottish football leaves hundreds of players with no club, says PFA Scotland

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Being without a club can be a difficult time for a footballer.

Hundreds of Scottish football players are still without a club despite the season being under way, according to PFA Scotland.

The players' union believes more footballers find themselves in that position every year.

"When you start seeing teams going back into competitive games, frustration's the main word that comes to mind," admits Gary Irvine, one player currently in that predicament.

The 33-year-old defender is best known for his time at St Johnstone and Dundee and last season helped St Mirren win the Scottish Championship.

But his contract there expired and, as his former team-mates prepare to travel to Ibrox to play Rangers on Sunday, he is trying to keep himself in decent shape in the hope he will soon get a deal elsewhere.

"I've just been keeping myself ticking over, keeping fit, doing as much of a pre-season as I can and I've actually been managing to get some game time as well with Dundee's second team," he told BBC Scotland.

"At the tail-end of last season, I had interest from Queen of the South. But things change and that never got over the finishing line.

"I'm getting twitchy now I see players I've played with doing pre-season and getting the games started."

Irvine remains optimistic he will get a deal, even if it means dropping down a level or moving away from Scotland, where he believes finances are tighter than ever.

"This pre-season, I'm hearing a lot from teams, especially in Scotland, that maybe their budgets aren't as big as the previous season," he said.

Kilmarnock's Eamonn Brophy and St Mirren's Stephen McGinn
St Mirren kicked off the new season against Kilmarnock in the League Cup on 13 August without Gary Irvine

Irvine has converted his garage into a gym and keeps his mind occupied by focusing on fitness.

However, he acknowledges others in his position could be susceptible to mental health problems.

"You hear of players struggling - they've grown up in a dressing-room environment and had a team mentality their whole life and they feel themselves isolated, missing out on that," he admitted.

"I totally get that. It's tough. You don't know what direction you're going, if a team's going to come in, if you're going to get the next wage packet. It's challenging mentally."

The issue of mental health has come to the fore in football in recent years and PFA Scotland is keen to highlight the support it can offer.

"There's a 24/7 helpline they can call or text," says the PFA's Michelle Evans.

"That gets them through to a doctor who'll assess them and they'll get confidential and free treatment for whatever they need.

"But it's really important the players realise it's there, that it's not just about calling it when you're in the throes of full-blown depression.

"It's when you're feeling a bit anxious, a bit pressured about the fact you maybe don't have a club at the moment, you don't know what your future's going to hold."

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