TWO key Hearts players will walk a suspension tightrope at Celtic Park tomorrow knowing their next booking triggers a one-match ban.
Jamie Hamill and Kevin McHattie have both amassed five league cautions this season and will incur a one-game ban once they reach six.
If either receives a yellow card tomorrow, they would still be available to face Kilmarnock, St Mirren and Hibs over the Christmas period. Scottish Football Association rules state that six bookings lead to a one-match suspension which takes effect 14 days after the sixth cautioned is issued. Therefore, Hamill or McHattie would miss Partick Thistle’s visit to Tynecastle on Saturday, January 4, if booked against Celtic.
Hearts’ squad is already decimated by injuries and losing more players through suspension could, potentially, leave them unable to field a team. Ryan Stevenson, Jason Holt, Gary Oliver and Mark Ridgers are all out. Scott Robinson, who is on four league bookings at present, is unlikely to feature against Celtic due to a groin problem and Jamie Walker remains doubtful.
Assistant manager Billy Brown explained that suspensions would further deplete the club’s resources and leave them struggling to put a team on the pitch as they operate with a young and threadbare squad whilst in administration.
“With our present injury problems, it is a concern because if we lost these players it would be a massive problem,” he said. “We can’t leave them out against Celtic. We could be struggling a wee bit to fill the bench tomorrow.
“I don’t think we can stretch the squad further. If we were to lose two or three through suspension, we would be in real trouble. It would be trouble just to fill the jerseys, to be honest with you. We don’t want that to happen because the situation already isn’t great. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
Brown added that neither Hamill nor McHattie will be anything other than fully committed against Celtic despite the threat of a ban. “You can’t go into any game giving any less than 100 per cent,” he said. “You play the game as you see it and if you get booked, you get booked. Some of the bookings we’ve had have been pretty poor to be honest, as have some of the decisions that have gone against us. If these players get booked, we’ll just have to take it on the chin.”