ALAN Stubbs fears Jason Cummings could fall foul of an SFA disciplinary system he insists is “wrong” and could end up unfairly missing a key part of Hibernian’s critical play-off promotion bid.
Cummings goes into this afternoon’s home encounter with Alloa Athletic just one more caution away from landing a one-match suspension that would kick in a fortnight further down the line.
Should that yellow come today, the 19-year-old would be banned for Hibs’ first game in the play-offs, and as the Championship’s top scorer, would undoubtedly be a big miss.
Stubbs’ Rangers counterpart, Stuart McCall, has already called for a disciplinary amnesty going into the play-offs, similar to the situation south of the border where suspensions are not carried forward beyond the end of the regular league season.
Cummings is the Hibs player most at risk as the capital side seek wins over Alloa and Falkirk in their remaining games to try to leapfrog Rangers into second place and head coach Stubbs believes the Scottish system is flawed.
He said: “We’ve already got one, Jason, who is a booking away from falling into that bracket. We knew if Jason got booked on Wednesday, he would miss the first leg of the first play-off game. So it affects us and I do think it’s wrong.
“The system in England is much better, where there is a cut-off date and then everything is re-set. To have this running for the length of time that it does is not fair on the players, especially when you count potentially six extra games at the end of the season.”
Despite the possibility for Cummings, who took is goal tally for the campaign to 18 in Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over Livingston, to be forced out of a play-off game, Stubbs confessed he has to balance the temptation to omit him with the possibility the teenager could prove key in the games he does play.
He added: “If we rested Jason for Wednesday, maybe then we wouldn’t have got the result and it would have affected us. If we rest him against Alloa, it could be the same.
If we’re in the play-offs, it could affect him for a game two weeks down the line. You have to make a decision over what’s beneficial to the club.
“He could play one game, score two goals and miss the second game. But you’ve already got one foot in the door.
“There are obviously things we have to take a calculated risk about.”
Cummings will be warned of the consequences of another booking, but the youngster has already shown himself to be a colourful character since breaking into the Hibs team last season.
Stubbs continued: “One, we tell him not to get booked in the first place, because a couple of his bookings have been for kicking the ball away or celebrating.
“I think he’s learned from that. You only have to look at his celebration from the Hearts game – he didn’t go off the pitch, he learned from the first one. So maybe the penny is dropping.”
Stubbs revealed yesterday that Hibs have plans in place to try to take the squad away for a sunshine break should they be successful in securing runners-up spot in the table and thereby progress to the Premiership play-off semi-final.
In that scenario, there would be a fortnight’s hiatus between the final league game next weekend and the semi-final first leg as they await the identity of their opponents.
Stubbs explained: “If we finish in second, I would like to do something with the lads. Whether that’s here or somewhere else, I would look at that.
“It’s a chance to give the players a little bit of down time, considering what they’ve been through.
“But we’ve got two games to take care of – and we’ll see what happens come two o’clock next Saturday.
“The players are aware of it. But obviously if Rangers win their last two games, it’s irrelevant. We’re very focused on what we have to do. We have to take care of our own games – if it happens, fine.”
Hibs will be boosted against Alloa by the return of Scott Allan from suspension but fellow midfielders Dylan McGeouch and Fraser Fyvie are likely to miss out with slight knocks.