BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Craig Sibbald scoops man-of-the-match awards so often his Falkirk team-mates jokingly ask whether it is his mum choosing the winner.
But Bairns boss Peter Houston is perfectly serious when he questions why the midfielder is consistently overlooked by Scotland.
Sibbald is approaching 200 first-team matches for Falkirk – an incredible statistic given he is still only 20.
With the latest Scotland under-21 squad due to be announced this week for the double-header against France and Northern Ireland later this month, Houston is convinced the youngster would serve his country well.
However, with ‘Sibbs’ having been left out of the international set-up since winning caps at under-17 level and a call-up to the under-19s, Houston fears Ricky Sbragia’s selection will bring yet more disappointment.
Houston, who has been named as the Championship manager of the month for February, said: “It’s not my decision but he’s been a consistent young player for me and he’s been different class.
“He would absolutely, 100 per cent, have the quality to do well at that level.
“I spoke to Danny Lennon at a CPD course at Hampden recently. Danny was in charge of the under-21s for a couple of games and he said he was really, really close to being called up.
“That was his choice. Who am I to influence the picking of any players?
“But when I see sometimes other players in the squad I wonder why he hasn’t been given an opportunity.
“And that’s all he can ask for, an opportunity.
“I’m not expecting it but if it comes then in my opinion it will be well deserved.
“If you look at the number of first-team games he’s played, he’s approaching 200 for Falkirk – and he’s still under 21. He’s risen to the challenge and 200 games at his age is fantastic.
“It’s a standing joke, from some of the boys, like Danny Rogers, when they ask ‘is it his mum or family that’s picking the man of the match every week?’.
“But he’s not picked for any other reason than the sponsors or whoever’s choosing think he’s a good player and has done well in that particular game.
“I think Ricky Sbragia was at the game on Saturday and he was good, but whether Ricky thinks that was good enough to be selected we’ll wait and see.
“I’d like to see him in it but I’m not convinced he will be.”
Meanwhile, Houston has revealed he will gladly allow striker Kevin O’Hara to miss Falkirk’s clash with Livingston on March 26 because of international duty.
The 17-year-old is expected to be called up by Scotland under-19s for their European Championship qualifiers against Belgium, hosts Croatia and Bulgaria later this month.
As a regular member of the Bairns first-team squad, O’Hara has made 12 appearances this season, most recently in last Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with St Mirren.
But Houston is happy he has the strength in depth to allow the highly-rated teenager to go away and soak up another valuable experience in his development.
Houston added: “Kevin would miss one game against Livingston and in that time he would get three games for the under-19s if selected.
“I’ve got Lee Miller, Bob McHugh, John Baird and Myles Hippolyte.
“So, my thoughts are to let him go and get the experience of playing for the national team, because I think he’s a player who might well go on to better things in the future.
“I wouldn’t want to deny him that opportunity. I think it would be god for him – and good for Falkirk that he gets that experience.”