Hibs: Jamie Gullan set for first start as Jack Ross discusses Marc McNulty Hearts incident

Sparky suspension opens door for young striker

Friday, 6th March 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 6th March 2020, 6:15 am
Jamie Gullan. Pic: SNS

Hibs boss Jack Ross is ready to hand rookie striker Jamie Gullan his first start against Aberdeen tomorrow after the Easter Road club decided not to challenge Marc McNulty’s two-match ban for stamping on Hearts Sean Clare.

McNulty escaped any punishment from referee Kevin Clancy during the 3-1 derby defeat for his first-half challenge on his opponent, but was issued with a notice of complaint by the SFA’s compliance officer Clare Whyte.

A Hampden hearing had been called for Monday to decide on the charge of violent conduct, but Hibs have decided there was no defence for his actions, meaning McNulty - back at the club for a second spell on loan from Reading - will miss the trip to Pittodrie and the visit of St Johnstone next Saturday.

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And Ross insisted he’d have no worries about throwing Gullan in against the Dons, believing the 20-year-old could even spring a surprise on Derek McInnes’ side.

The Hibs head coach said: “He’s still a young player, but I don’t view him as one that’s just padding up the first team squad. I view him as a first-team player because of how well he’s done in training and when he’s come onto the pitch.

“He’s ready to play. Opportunities can present themselves in different ways. Quite often for young players it’s when players are out of form, the team’s struggling a little bit or because of injuries or suspensions.”

The fact that Gullan, who only scored his first goal in the 5-2 Scottish Cup win over Inverness Caley last Friday, isn’t a familiar face could, claimed Ross, work in his favour.

He added: “When they (young players) start playing first team football regularly, there’s usually a bounce period when they are a little bit unknown to people.

“Although the analysis side of the game has developed so much that there’s less and less unknowns, on the pitch players get a feel for who they’re playing against, their strengths and weaknesses.

“At the moment, Jamie’s still a relative unknown to all the defenders in the Premiership so that can be something he can use to his advantage.”

Although he had declined to comment on McNulty’s actions in the immediate aftermath of the derby insisting he hadn’t seen it, Ross conceded the footage shown live on television of the incident didn’t do his player any favours.

“When I spoke post-match I genuinely wasn’t aware of it. It didn’t really create much furorer as sometimes these incidents do. But the broadcast footage isn’t great from Marc’s point of view.”

Ross revealed he’ll speak to McNulty, but believes it was a one-off moment, saying: “I’m not being dismissive of incidents that happen, but equally a lot of things happen in split seconds in football.

“It is a frenetic atmosphere, it’s frantic and it’s played by human beings, not robots and it’s difficult not to get caught up in it.

“If there are repetitive instances, or repetitive behaviour, inappropriate or indisciplined behaviour it gives you more of a headache - it’s miles away from that.”