Socceroos moved the goalposts on Asian Cup call-ups for Hearts clash, insists Hibs manager Neil Lennon

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NEIL LENNON has accused Australia of ‘moving the goalposts’ after Hibernian were informed all three of their Socceroos will be forced to miss the forthcoming Edinburgh derby.

Lennon has revealed the Easter Road outfit were confident of being able to hang on to ‘one or two’ of their Australian contingent for the encounter next Saturday before the trio left to meet up with their international colleagues to prepare for the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

However, the capital outfit have been left ‘disappointed’ after Aussie manager Graham Arnold insisted on Mark Milligan, Jamie Maclaren and Martin Boyle all leaving their club behind immediately after the meeting with Rangers at Ibrox on Boxing Day.

Arnold conducted a charm offensive in Scotland in September after taking the reins again Down Under and met with Lennon and Celtic counterpart Brendan Rodgers.

However, the Hibs boss, who said the club had helped push Boyle’s case for an international call-up, admits he now feels let down by Australia’s hard-line approach.

“We were of the opinion that we would be able to negotiate one or two players and not lose all three, so the goalposts have moved a little bit,” explained Lennon as the club versus country row overshadowed the build-up to the visit of Livingston.

“I know he [Arnold] is under pressure, not just from us but from other clubs as well. But that wasn’t the indication we were given.

“And, at the same time, we were promoting Boyle towards him. Boyle became an option for him and, as it turns out, he went away and did very well and has become a welcome addition to their squad.

“Then we get the email in saying they are taking all three of them after Boxing Day.

“I would have expected to have at least one of the players here for the derby. I didn’t expect to have none of them, so I am disappointed.”

Having rejected the possibility of postponing the sold-out visit of Hearts, Hibs will monitor Celtic’s fight to have Tom Rogic excused international duty to play in their derby against Rangers on the same day.

“Of course we would would say something if that was to happen,” he added. “It opens up a whole can of worms. You can’t have one rule for one and another for the rest.

“It is not just ourselves and Celtic, there are English teams as well that they are having to battle. So, I appreciate it is probably a difficult situation for Graham as well but it still isn’t the indication that we got two months ago.”

Australia, the holders, are due to open their tournament against Jordan on January 6 before facing Palestine and Syria.

Should they go all the way, Hibs’ trio will not be back until after the final on February 1 and would also miss the Scottish Cup tie with Elgin City and the league games against Motherwell, St Mirren and Aberdeen.

Lennon sees the irony in the club helping Boyle further his international ambitions, only to suffer.

But he said: “I’m not regretting promoting Martin because it is good for him and good for his career, and it is a big tournament as well. But that is of no relevance to me whatsoever.

“But we beat Celtic last week without all three Australian boys in the team so we will just have to negotiate another tough game without them.”

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