Scotland U21 boss tells Hibs pair to stay at home

SCOTLAND Under-21 boss Billy Stark told devastated duo Sam Stanton and Danny Handling to stay at home after their relegation disaster with Hibernian.

Both Daniel Handling, pictured, and Sam Stanton have been told to stay at home. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The Easter Road duo were supposed to meet up with the rest of Stark’s group on Monday morning ahead of Wednesday’s UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifier with Holland.

But they will now miss the game at St Mirren Park after the Dark Blues manager decided the stunned 20-year-olds would put the squad’s feel-good factor at risk.

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He said: “The lads are in a state of shock. Some fans might think that players don’t care what happens but they were distraught when I spoke to them last night.

“They felt humiliated and I just felt it would be very difficult for them to come here the next day with a spring in their step and a smile on their face.

“The squad needs positivity around it so I made the decision with lads’ full backing that they should stay at home.

“I told them that if they thought the best thing for them would be to come here and get away from it all, then they were more than welcome.

“But they agreed with me that the state they were in, that would be difficult.”

Hibs were relegated to the Championship after blowing a two-goal lead at Easter Road on Sunday before losing their Premiership place to Hamilton on penalties.

But Stark insists their play-off nightmare will not haunt their young careers.

“I told them during my chat that as a good professional, you need to learn to deal with disappointment,” he said. “I can’t imagine they will have any greater disappointment than getting relegated with Hibs because it is a a big club. No-one would have seen it coming three months ago.

“It’s a shock but they will recover and it will not stunt their development.”

Hibs will now join city rivals Hearts in the second tier but Jambos defender Callum Paterson admits the Leith side’s demotion will make their task of sealing an instant return to the Premiership even trickier.

“It’s great news for the club because that is four derbies guaranteed for the club, which means a lot financially,” he said.

“It will make it tougher to get out of the league with Hibs being down there but our main aim is to finish first and get promotion back to the top flight.

“There are already big clubs like Falkirk and Livingston down there but if we have to do it the hard way we will.”

The Scots sit fourth in the five-team Group 3, six points behind leaders Slovakia.

After facing the Dutch on Wednesday, then they have to face Luxembourg and the group leaders away from home and Stark admits maximum points are required if his side are to reach the finals in the Czech Republic.

“We need three wins to qualify,” he said. “You can be optimistic and hope results elsewhere will go for you but history tells you that you need 15 points to qualify.

“We’ve got seven right now so nine more should get us there. But it’s easy saying that. Now we need to go out and get them.”