Hibs defender Darren McGregor has urged for a shake-up of Scottish football’s disciplinary system after learning a one-match ban will force him to sit out the club’s first Premiership match in three years.
McGregor’s suspension has been carried over from last season after he picked up six yellow cards, a fate which has also befallen team-mate and skipper David Gray, who will also miss the visit of Partick Thistle on Saturday.
But the 31-year-old believes it’s an unfair punishment, arguing to be booked six times over the course of an entire season represents a decent record, particularly for a central defender such as himself.
He feels the SFA could do well to look at how their English counterparts operate, players in the Premier League liable for a one-match ban if they are shown five yellow cards, two matches for ten and three for 15. However, in England, December 31 acts as a “cut-off date”, meaning any player booked for a fifth time thereafter would not be suspended, although if they hit ten they would be.
McGregor said: “I think it is harsh to suspend someone for six yellows over the course of a season playing in the position I am in and then to carry it over into the next season and into a different league.
“England have a system that’s perhaps a wee bit in front of us. It’s maybe something to look at. Obviously there has to be a repercussion for a red card but to accrue six yellows over the course of an entire season having played in 95 per cent of the 36 games and then be suspended at the start of the next season ... We could really do with having a look at that.”
It’s the second time McGregor – who played in 35 of Hibs’ Championship matches last season – has been caught in this manner, a one-game suspension carried over at the start of the season when he moved to Easter Road from Rangers two years ago for exactly the same reason, the player having featured in a total of 41 games in the second tier for the Ibrox club, including five play-off matches.
Asked what he would propose as an alternative, McGregor said: “There’s perhaps a case for looking at it come December or January and if a player is on, say, four yellows think about chopping a couple off or wiping the slate.
“It’s the second time I’ve been done by it and the boys will tell you six yellow cards over the course of the season is good – but you then end up getting penalised at the end of it and banned for the start of the next season.
“Maybe it is sour grapes for me because I’ve been done twice for the same thing. It’s not my job to dictate what they do, but I think it’s definitely something worth having a look at.”
Like any player, McGregor was desperate to feature in the opening game of the season, a chance to lay down a marker to boss Neil Lennon, particularly with the Hibs boss having others such as Efe Ambrose, Liam Fontaine and Ryan Porteous as his disposal in central defence, with Paul Hanlon now on the comeback trail following six months out with a pelvic injury.
He said: “I’ll take my punishment. I’ve trained well, I’m fit and hopefully I’ll be in the gaffer’s thoughts for the Rangers game the following week. I’m gutted to miss this weekend but I’ll be watching from the stands and I am sure the boys will do a good job.”
Meanwhile, Hibs’ Betfred Cup tie against Ayr United will take place at Easter Road next Tuesday, August 8, (kick-off 7.45pm).