Andrew Shinnie has admitted he is baffled by the rules which have robbed Hibs of key players John McGinn and Ofir Marciano for today’s crunch Championship clash with Falkirk.
The pair have departed on international duty, McGinn part of Gordon Strachan’s squad for tomorrow night’s World Cup qualifying match with Slovenia having won his fourth Scotland cap against Canada in midweek, while Marciano played for Israel in Spain last night.
However, despite their absence, Hibs are obliged to fulfil today’s fixtures, the rules and regulations only allowing them to seek a postponement if three players have been called up by their countries.
While there are no Premiership matches in Scotland today to take account of international fixtures throughout Europe, it’s obvious no-one in authority had foreseen the possibility of a Championship side having players in such a position.
Although delighted to see his team-mates’ performances with Hibs recognised by their respective countries, Shinnie, who watched McGinn in action in midweek on his home turf, said: “I thought John might have started, but at least he got a run out and it’s great for him to get another cap for Scotland.
“We want everyone who can play for Scotland to be there and I’d love John to play against Slovenia, it would be great for him, his career and Hibs.
“But the flip side is John is a massive player for us and, if he isn’t going to play (for Scotland) tomorrow, it would have been great to have him back. Ofir will be a miss as well because he has been playing well and he’s now Israel’s No.1.
“It’s a big game for us and I don’t know why the rules are the way they are. There won’t be many Championship teams with two international players called up.
“I don’t know why the international break isn’t for everyone. Why should a team suffer by losing some of its best players? If you are an international, the chances are you’ll be one of the most important players in your team. So if there’s a game, especially at this stage of the season, when you lose them it’s disappointing.”
The loss of McGinn and Marciano will be mitigated to an extent by the return to Hibs boss Neil Lennon’s plans of midfielders Fraser Fyvie and Dylan McGeouch from suspension and injury respectively while Ross Laidlaw has proved an able deputy for the Israeli goalkeeper having played in all three of this season’s games against Falkirk and emerging unbeaten from each.
Hibs won two of those matches and Shinnie admitted another victory ahead of Wednesday night’s visit from Morton, like the Bairns seven points adrift of the Championship leaders, would go a long way to helping Lennon’s players clinch the title and promotion.
Admitting to feeling a “little edge” to today’s encounter, Shinnie said: “They really like beating Hibs, but everyone wants to beat Hibs in this league. Falkirk are a tough team to play against, they’re always up and around the promotion spots. They kind of bottled it a little bit against Kilmarnock [in last season’s play-off final] and Killie had a big win on the day.
“But if they had turned up they would probably be playing in the Premiership now. So it will be a difficult game, but we are ready for it.
“A win would be big for us if we could get it and a big blow for them. We have a massive week ahead of us and Falkirk is the first game so that’s what we are preparing for.
“They’ll look at if and think if they can beat us they are maybe back in the race. We can’t let that happen. If we can get a good win it will be great for the confidence and it might put one of the other teams out of the race.”
Almost as important as points for Hibs is the fact games are quickly running out for both them and the teams chasing them, Lennon’s players having a match in hand over Falkirk while Morton have played on less than the Capital club and two fewer than the Bairns.
Shinnie, on loan for the season from Birmingham City, said: “It’s a massive period. There are not a lot of games left and we have Morton to play a couple of times. It’s a massive game, but that’s what you want to be involved in, trying to win a league and get promoted. Hibs are a big club and should be in the Premiership. It’s all very well for us to keep saying that, but unfortunately we got relegated and it’s up to us to get back up there now. However, this is a hard league, there are some good players in it and I think people look down on it a bit too much.”
Shinnie admitted that while all eyes are on clinching the title and ending three years in the Championship, he and his team-mates are aware they are also playing for a place in Lennon’s side to face Aberdeen in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup at the end of next month.
He said: “There are a lot of clubs going through the motions just now but we’re right in there with a chance to do the double which would be unbelievable.”