Hibs caretaker boss Billy Brown today revealed the Euro Under-21 qualifying campaign has badly hindered his preparations for his first match in charge of the Easter Road outfit – Saturday’s clash with Kilmarnock. Brown has found himself without seven of his first-team squad as they’ve been on international duty and he doesn’t expect to have them all back until Thursday morning.
But while admitting the situation was far from ideal, Brown admitted such a predicament arose from the tender years of the Hibs squad which saw Paul Hanlon, David Wotherspoon, Leigh Griffiths and Callum Booth all called up by Scotland while Richie Towell, David Stephens and Victor Palsson departed to represent the Republic of Ireland, Wales and Iceland respectively.
Hanlon and Wotherspoon both played the full 90 minutes as the young Scots stunned Holland with a 2-1 victory in Nijmegen with the Hibs midfielder scoring the winning goal while Griffiths was a late substitute in that game.
Towell also played the entire game as the Irish defeated Liechtenstein in Sligo and, while Palsson has already returned following Iceland’s 5-0 defeat by England, Stephens isn’t expected back for another 48 hours with Wales due to face Armenia in Yerevan tonight.
Although delighted that the club should have so many playing for their countries, Brown conceded it was something of a “double-edged” sword as far as Hibs were concerned.
He said: “It’s not ideal, it would have been nice at the start of this week to have the full squad together, being able to pick the team for Saturday early and working on our plan for the weekend.
“Other teams will have found themselves in the same position with players away but it’s unusual to have so many who are playing regular first-team football at the same club.
“In our last game against Dunfermline Hanlon, Wotherspoon, Griffiths and Stephens all started while Towell came on as a substitute and Palsson was on the bench.”
However, Brown did admit that international selection was a measure of success.
“I’d imagine the fact they are playing regularly in the first team here has a bearing on them being picked by their respective countries, it reflects well on Hibs’ youth policy.”
Skipper Ian Murray returned to training for the first time since picking up a groin injury in the League Cup defeat by Celtic almost three weeks ago and came through the session with no apparent ill-effects.
Nevertheless, he’ll be closely monitored and a decision made much later in the week as to whether he’ll be ready to face Killie.