FORMER Wanderers assistant Sandy Stewart has described the “surreal” feeling of playing a showpiece game behind closed doors.

For the last three months the Scot has been right-hand-man to Owen Coyle at Indian Super League side Chennaiyin, helping take the team from joint-bottom of the table into the play-off final.

But as the coronavirus took hold of the country the decision was made just 48 hours before the prestige game against ATK to stage it behind closed doors.

Stewart has since returned home to Scotland to find the domestic game shut down completely with no firm date on its return.

“One of the reasons for playing behind closed doors was to make sure the season finished,” the 54-year-old former Kilmarnock, Airdrie and Partick Thistle defender told the PA news agency.

“There were plenty of fans at the two home and away semis the week before.

“Up until we went away on the Sunday, there was only 73 known cases of coronavirus out of a population of well over a billion. I actually didn’t realise the scale of it here in Scotland until I came back.

“I heard it had been getting worse and football had stopped but until I actually touched down and seen the news and talked to people that I realised the extent of it.

“My son Scott plays for Arbroath and can’t train with the team. He needs to go out and train himself, doing runs and trying to keep himself as fit as possible and they don’t have any games.

“The final over there was surreal. I think there were only 70 people allowed in between the two clubs and also officials and television technicians and people like that.

“I had never experienced that before. With two days’ notice we were told it was to be played behind closed doors.

“If people had asked beforehand do you want the final played but it was going to be behind closed doors, everybody would have agreed and in the circumstances it was the right thing to do.

“The strangest thing was the fact that you knew it was a final and the biggest game in the Indian League.

“I had watched Wolfsburg against Shakhtar Donetsk in a closed-doors game on television and you could hear every player shouting, it was a strange feeling and it was the exact same in the final.

“But when the game started you just got into the game that much, you blocked everything.”

Stewart spent two-and-a-half years with Coyle at Wanderers and has also worked with him at Wigan Athletic, Ross County and Houston Dynamo.

Reports suggest Chennaiyin have asked the duo to return next season but their success has also sparked the interest of a number of other clubs.

Former Wanderers like Phil Brown, Jussi Jaaskelainen and Trevor Morgan have helped to grown the formative Super League in India and while Stewart is now seeking some time with his family before considering a return he was impressed with the standard of football.

He said: “My daughter had just had my first grandchild before I left so it is time to catch up.

“It was only meant to be 11 weeks over there but because we did that well, going from joint bottom of the league into the play-off and then the final, that extended the season for us.

“It was a very enjoyable experienced. The football was good, the pitches were good, it was well organised.

“It was better than I would have given it credit for before I went out there.

“Each team is allowed seven foreigners who bring the standard up but there is some good young Indian players and they are only going to get better.”