SPARE a thought in these difficult times for the introverts and socially awkward among us. While the rest of the nation cheered heartily as Nicola Sturgeon eased the 10-week lockdown and said we were now allowed out to play again, those who have rather enjoyed the mandatory order to stay at home and avoid other people sighed wearily. Do we have to?

Still, judging by the scenes all across the country over the last few days, it would appear those who have been quite content to simply potter around the house, sit out the back or toddle around the park every day were very much in the minority.

Long-awaited reunions were held all over the country as the First Minister and her advisors tried in vain to remind people that this was a relaxing of the restrictions rather than the end of them. Good luck with that.

That message could barely be heard for the stampede

as friends and families seized the chance to meet up in gardens, parks, and beaches often in contravention of the guidelines.

Any guilty conscience, however, could immediately be salved with the retort that “well, if Dominic Cummings can do it…” This genie is well and truly out the bottle and won’t be going back in any time soon.

Kids, in particular, seemed delighted to once again have a chance to meet up with their pals. Home schooling assignments dispatched weekly by teachers may be done with the best of intentions but for those children in primary school – like my trio of cherubs – it has not been proper education that they’ve been badly missing but the chance for some playtime and camaraderie.

The smile on the boy’s alarmingly-sunkissed face on Friday after a day spent in the sunshine with his friends said more about the improvement in his mental health than words ever could. The chances of them having stuck to social distancing rules throughout a seven-hour spell outside of the house? Slim to none you would suspect.

Although well-informed and well-intentioned, it is hard to imagine a group of 11 and 12 year-olds applying those rules, their younger siblings even less so. The only way you could have guaranteed them staying two metres apart would have been to tether them together with poles and let them roam around like a giant game of table football. And let’s not dismiss that idea entirely at this point.

Children were not the only ones getting closer than they ought to have. Parents and grown-up kids sat side by side having picnics, old pals congregated on a park bench. The unusually warm weather may have been a factor but the bottom line is people now believe the worst of the virus has passed and are returning to old habits and old relationships.

Perhaps a second wave of the virus will scare everyone back inside again. Failing that, however, it may be time to readdress the options for elite sport’s long-awaited return in this country, too.

It is hard to ever criticise a governing body for erring on the side of caution but if we are now set for a summer where people will congregate regularly at parks, garden centres, supermarkets and fast-food chain restaurants, then why not inside football stadia, too?

For so long, closed-doors matches seemed the only viable solution while the rest of the country was being sensible and avoiding contact with each other.

But if that ship has now truly sailed as seems to be

the case, why should football fans also be denied that undoubted sense of euphoria that many people felt as they met up with friends and family this week, or as golfers teed it up for the first time and tennis players smashed their first balls of the summer?

Going to watch their football team is a weekly ritual for many people. You can understand, therefore, why hundreds of thousands of people are missing it badly. Allowing fans back into matches may not be the textbook move in terms of restricting the pandemic but

it could do wonders for the spirit and soul of the nation.

Given we are still in May and conditions are changing rapidly, it is hard to see how any recommendations put in place now will still apply come August or September.

Lower-division clubs whose average gate rarely rises above a few hundred people inside grounds capable of holding several thousand could easily find a way to ensure they can meet that demand while keeping fans the required distance apart.

For Premiership and Championship clubs it becomes a bit trickier but, again, as the threat of the virus hopefully subsides, there will be ways to make it work.

Celtic Park and Ibrox won’t be at anywhere near full capacity to start with – and there will still be some fans who won’t feel comfortable being part of a large gathering again for a while – but, with the right measures implemented, there is no reason why fans should be

shut out from matches any longer than necessary.

People who don’t like sport often point out that football shouldn’t ever expect to be considered a special case.

As people all around

the country start to flock together once again, now

would be a good time to

put those words into practice and give fans that same freedom.