A SHOUT went up from the small section of the Alloa Athletic ‘ultras’ in the Clackmannan Road End as Adam Brown picked up Kevin O’Hara’s pass.

“Shoot!” screamed the youngsters, their boisterous voices still filling the Recs despite the 2-0 scoreline and the seconds ticking by on the match clock. 

Glancing towards the whites of Mark Ridgers’ eyes, Brown, playing his first minutes since January, controlled with his left, shifted his weight to that side, and pinged an arrowed ball towards the goal. 

It looked for all the world that he had found the net for the fourth time that season as the ultras united in one to will the ball home. 

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Agonisingly, both for Brown and for the teenagers, his shot cannoned off the inside of the post, rolled across the line, and out towards the far side, denying him the chance of putting the icing on Alloa’s fine Inverness Caley Thistle win. 

Seconds later, he was shaking the hands of his downed opponents and joining his team-mates in one last show of appreciation to the home fans before darting off down the tunnel and into the bowels of the Recs. 

It was March 7 and very much a simpler time; when handshakes weren’t greeted with the gasps of a Victorian housemaid and a trip to Partick Thistle was the most pressing concern on the Wasps’ horizon. 

No one leaving the Recs that day would have believed you if you’d have told them six months later that football would have been reduced to little more than a footnote during the grip of a devastating virus. 

For Brown, it was a challenge. Not only has he found a happy home in Alloa, but he also spends his days in the game, working with Street League to use the power of the sport to help people move into employment. 

What a joy it was for the 25-year-old, then, when the game was finally given the greenlight to return to training last month and the Wasps could jump back into what they do best. 

“It’s been good and strange at times, I will admit,” Brown told Advertiser Sport. “It has been good to be back and five and a half months was a long time [without the football].

“It felt a wee bit longer for myself because of the injury I got at the start of the year. We’ve been back three weeks now and it’s not felt like that at all - it has gone in quite quickly!

“All the boys have been enjoying it and it has been a tough start for us. 

“We have our first game on Tuesday [after Advertiser Sport had gone to press] and it has just been several weeks of training.

“It is a lot different in terms of what we have to do; we can be 18 players and four staff members, we get our temperature checked, arrive in our kit, then leave straightaway, no showers or changing rooms or anything like that.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: Adam Brown during pre-season training in the summer. Picture by John Howie

“It’s a lot different from what we are used to but we are making the most of it and it has been okay. 

“Hopefully it changes soon and we can get the changing rooms back.

“We are only used to three or four weeks off in the summer, so trying to keep yourself fit and ticking over, when, three months, we didn’t know when we were going to be back, was difficult.

“We could have been training ourselves the rest of the year and didn’t know when we were going to be back. 

“It was tough. A lot of the boys found it the same.

“All we could do was running on roads but we want to be doing stuff to get us ready for football. 

“It was also tough mentally and that was the same for everyone.

“We were all the same and stuck in the house during lockdown when we all just wanted the human interaction and a laugh with your mates.

“We are all missing the changing room environment, not just because you need to jump straight into the car however soaking wet or sweaty!” 

When Peter Grant’s side did return to training, there were plenty of new faces for Brown to finally meet outside of the WhatsApp chat. 

Nicky Jamieson, Ray Grant, and Innes Murray have all been added to the squad as the Wasps bid to make it four seasons of Championship football in a row by defying the odds once again. 

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“The boys who have come in have been doing really, really well,” Brown, who has previously played with St Mirren and Airdrieonians, said. “Nicky looks like a decent big defender who doesn’t mess about. 

“Ray looks nice and tidy on the ball and will fit into the way we play. Innes looks really sharp already but I know he has had a few more weeks at it than most.

“He looks creative and tidy on the ball and he will really fit into the team. 

“They are all good lads and I know I am saying we don’t have much interaction in the changing room but we are still speaking.

“One thing I will always say is that it is a right good bunch and no one came back in poor condition. 

“Everyone was in good shape and raring to go. You see that in the way we are training and everyone is flying.”

Like most, Brown has watched with interest the return of football behind closed doors.

With no fans to greet the sound of the ball hitting the net or to share their thoughts after a disappointing defeat. 

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: Ray Grant has joined his dad in Clacks Ray Grant has joined his dad in Clacks

It’s the game, but not as we know it, and he is hopeful, on the back of successful test events in Aberdeen and Dingwall, supporters will be there to welcome Alloa back next month. 

Whether they do or not will depend on the virus being brought under control. 

“I just hope we do get fans back in, even if it is just limited numbers,” he said. “Every player in Scotland is hoping for that. 

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“It’s not the same, just watching on the telly, without the fans. 

“They will add to it and to the new normal.”