Hibs star Sol Bamba goes AWOL

MYSTERY today surrounded the whereabouts of Hibs star Sol Bamba after the Ivory Coast defender failed to report to the Easter Road club's training camp here in the Netherlands as planned.

Boss John Hughes admitted his plans for next week's Europa League clash had been thrown into turmoil, revealing he was already planning for the first leg of the third qualifying round tie against Videoton or Maribor barely a week away without the influential defender.

Bamba had been due to rejoin Hughes' squad after being granted extra time off following his country's World Cup campaign in South Africa and was pencilled in to take part in the third match of Hibs' tour of the Netherlands against Ado Den Haag tonight.

But today Hughes admitted to being baffled by the 25-year-old's absence, revealing the former Dunfermline defender hadn't returned his calls and accusing him of being selfish and showing a lack of respect to "the club, his team-mates and me".

However, Hughes refused to pre-judge Bamba's actions until he's confronted his wayward star face-to-face, accepting there may well be a legitimate reason, while annoyed he hasn't seen fit to make contact to explain his non-appearance.

He said: "There's no anger, more a disappointment and frustration. Sol had been due to join us for training yesterday but he was a 'no show'. We gave him extra time after the World Cup but we have our own cup final coming up next week and it is all hands on deck.

"My whole concern is getting this team prepared. Sol has been an integral part of the side but at this moment in time I am planning for next week without him, looking at different systems and the like because I do not know when he is going to turn up."

Hughes revealed he had left messages on Bamba's mobile but, as yet, had not received a reply.

He said: "There may be a very good reason so I won't pre-judge him, but it shouldn't be any hassle to answer your phone or call the club or myself. I feel really let down and I think he has been a bit disrespectful to the rest of the boys when they are here working so hard, physically, mentally and tactically for what is one of the club's biggest games in years."

And Hughes believes Bamba's team-mates won't be slow to let him know their feelings when he does, eventually, show face. He said: "The boys are talking about it and given the spirit and the dynamics we have within the squad, I truthfully have to say I hope they are as disappointed as me."

Hughes refused to speculate on what might lie behind Bamba – who departed for South Africa claiming to be the centre of attraction for clubs likes Fulham, Rennes, Paris St Germain and Lille – going AWOL, saying: "It would be totally out of order for me to do so."

But he did contrast Bamba's attitude with that of striker Derek Riordan who, having witnessed the birth of his first child, daughter Ruby, just four days previously, flew out to team up with the squad, scoring the only goal of the game against Eredivisie side NEC Nijmegen just hours later.

He said: "Derek had just had a kid but he said he would come over for Monday night's game because he wanted to be here playing. Sol has been a bit selfish, it goes against what we are trying to create within the squad."

Hughes admitted he felt personally let down by Bamba having "nursed" him through a season which saw him play a vital part in the Ivory Coast's World Cup qualification as well as taking part in the African Cup of Nations in January.

He said: "We are quite an understanding bunch and I feel I have been very generous to him with his international schedule and his time off. We've nursed him through and I feel really let down at this moment."

It is understood Hibs chairman Rod Petrie has been attempting to contact the player through his agent, leaving Hughes to concentrate on the remaining two matches of Hibs' Dutch tour, tonight's game being followed by Saturday's finale with Vitesse Arnhem.

Expressing the hope Bamba will eventually arrive at some point today, Hughes added: "When he does show we'll discuss what has happened between us.

"He's been a big player for the club but I feel he has shown a real disrespect for the club, his team-mates and me."