Hughes wants more national calls for Hibs

JOHN HUGHES watched a host of Hibs players disappear on international duty over the weekend and declared: "I want to see even more starring for their countries."

Sol Bamba starred as the Ivory Coast thumped Burkina Faso 5-0; Merouane Zemmama and Abdessalam Benjelloun played their part in Morocco's 1-1 draw in Togo and Paul Hanlon saw a last-gasp effort cleared off the line as Scotland's Under-21 side went down 1-0 in Austria.

In addition, injury saw goalkeeper Yves Ma-Kalambay quit the Belgian camp as they prepared to face Spain.

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While admitting there was always a concern players could return injured from playing for their countries, Hughes today insisted it won't be long before he's fretting over even more of his Easter Road stars during international weeks.

He said: "I want more players away with their countries. It's a terrific experience for them, rubbing shoulders with the best and that can only benefit them and Hibs in the future.

"I'd like to think it won't be long before young David Wotherspoon is joining Paul in the Under-21s while Kurtis Byrne will be thinking the same about the Republic of Ireland.

"Anthony Stokes is another, he's already played for Ireland and I know he was told he'd have to be playing regularly to recapture his place so hopefully once we get him playing consistently and scoring goals he'll get the call again."

Having expressed misgivings over Zemmama travelling to play in Morocco's World Cup qualifying match after only half an hour of first-team action following a thigh problem, Hughes confessed to being delighted to see he had played the full match in Lome.

He said: "Zouma didn't look himself against Celtic, every time I looked at him he seemed to be concerned about his thigh. But the fact he played the entire game for Morocco tells me he's now fit again, those 90 minutes will do him the world of good."

While Hibs didn't have any player directly involved in Scotland's vital 2-0 win over Macedonia at Hampden, Hughes insisted the Easter Road club could take great pride in having former stars Scott Brown – who scored the opening goal – Steven Whittaker, Steven Fletcher and Kenny Miller involved in the action with Garry O'Connor on the bench.

Hughes, who spent Saturday watching the club's Under-10s in action, said: "It was terrific to see so many players who have come through the system here playing for Scotland, long may it continue. Our job is to keep bringing them through."

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Meanwhile, Hibs have expressed the club's sadness over the death, at 64, of former player Billy Simpson who played for the Easter Road outfit in the mid-1960s.

He signed for Hibs from Edina Hibs in 1963 and went on to make 45 appearances in seven seasons before going on to play for Falkirk, Albion Rovers, Alloa Athletic and Cowdenbeath. He then managed alongside Billy Lamont at East Stirling, Dumbarton, Falkirk, Partick Thistle and Alloa.