Stubbs urges rethink on international call-up rule

John McGinn, left, and Jason Cummings will almost certainly be called up for Scotland Under-21 action
John McGinn, left, and Jason Cummings will almost certainly be called up for Scotland Under-21 action
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ALAN STUBBS has called for a rethink on the rule which could see Hibs play a crucial Championship match without key players Jason Cummings and John McGinn.

The Easter Road duo are almost certain to be called up by Scotland Under-21 boss Ricky Sbragia for their next European Championship qualifying match against Ukraine in the middle of next month.

But that game in Paisley is due to take place the day before Hibs – seeking to chase down Rangers’ eight-point lead – face basement outfit Livingston in Edinburgh.

And, as things stand, clubs can only ask for a match to be postponed if they have three players away on international duty as was the case when Hibs’ game with Falkirk in September was put on hold, both McGinn and Cummings with the Under-21s and Scott Martin in the Scots’ Under-19 squad.

No Premiership games have been scheduled for Saturday, November 14 – that weekend having been left clear to cater for World Cup play-off matches, but there is a full programme of matches in the lower leagues in Scotland, presenting Stubbs with a potential headache.

It is a problem the head coach revealed has already been discussed within Easter Road although he believes midfielder Liam Henderson is pushing hard for an Under-21 call while both Dominique Malonga and Henri Anier could be in the frame to play for Congo and Estonia respectively that weekend.

Stubbs said: “The rule says it has to be three so it’s difficult because we have two influential players who have been in the team more or less from day one. The rules are the rules so I’m not going to complain, but I don’t see why it has to be three. For me, it doesn’t make any difference whether it’s three, two or one. Even if it’s one, it could be your main striker – and Jason is our top scorer – so how doesn’t that give the opposition an unfair advantage?”

While the issue has been discussed internally, it’s one Hibs are likely to pursue with the SFA.

Stubbs said: “You would like to think there’s a real understanding because we want to work with the international team and I am sure they want to work with us. We’ll have a conversation and see whether we can come to an amicable outcome. I think there should be a legitimate conversation whether we are in the Premiership or the Championship. If you have two very influential players who are representing their country it’s going to have an impact on the team. It shouldn’t make a difference whether you are in the Championship or Premiership, an influential player is an influential player whichever division you are in.”

Calls-up for Henderson, Malonga or Anier – or even all three – would, of course, leave no room for discussion, allowing Hibs to activate a postponement. Stubbs said: “I want all of them to be called up because it’s recognition for them, recognition for the club. But we will have to wait and see what materialises over the next couple of weeks.”