JACK ROSS insists Marc McNulty could face a battle to get back into the Hibernian side after the Easter Road outfit officially accepted the consequences of his moment of madness against Hearts.
The 27-year-old will miss the Hibees’ pivotal Premiership fixture against Aberdeen on Saturday after being served with a notice of complaint by the Scottish FA for his ugly stamp on Sean Clare during Tuesday night’s derby defeat.
Hibs formally accepted the offer of a two-game ban on Thursday evening, rather than seek a Hampden hearing on Monday.
As a result, McNulty will be immediately suspended for the trip to Pittodrie and subsequent visit of St Johnstone, likely affording young Jamie Gullan the chance to further enhance his burgeoning reputation.
The Hibs head coach did not chastise McNulty for his actions – far from it – but hopes he has a headache when the Scotland internationalist returns from his enforced spell on the sideline.
“The broadcast footage isn’t great from Marc’s point of view,” conceded Ross, prior to the charge being accepted. “I’m not being dismissive of incidents which happen, but equally there’s a lot of things happen in split-seconds in football.
“In games like Tuesday’s, there are a lot of decisions that are not in alignment with what they might normally do in all sorts of aspects, and it’s very easy – when you’re not in that position – to pass judgment and say they should have done better.
“It is a frenetic atmosphere, it’s frantic and it’s played by human beings, not robots. It is difficult not to get caught up in it. I suppose the best players are the ones who can keep their cool headedness in all types of aspects in those matches.
“If there are repetitive instances, or repetitive behaviour – inappropriate or indisciplined behaviour – it gives you more of a headache, but this is miles away from that.
“But this presents an opportunity for someone else and, if they take that chance, then Marc would have to work his way back in.
“I’m hoping it will be a fight for him because it means we have been playing well and winning in his absence. That would be the best case scenario for me.”
Gullan, 20, is front of the line to deputise, having impressed in a series of recent cameos from the bench, including a superbly taken maiden strike for the club against Inverness seven days ago. He also notched 10 goals on loan at Raith Rovers during the first half of the campaign.
“I view him Jamie as a first team player because of how well he’s done in training and when he’s come on to the pitch – so he’s ready to play,” added Ross.
“Opportunities can present themselves in different ways and quite often for young players it’s when players are out of form, the team’s struggling a little bit or because of injuries and suspensions.
“If you look back at the young players who have progressed through the ranks, it’s usually those type of circumstances that have given them their chance in the first place and you hope they take that opportunity.”
And Ross bristled at the negativity which has followed Hibs’ capitulation against their city rivals, given it was just a second defeat and 13 games and his charges remain in a comfortable position in the top six.
Perspective and clarity, he contends, is often in short supply in modern football.
“I think it’s very indicative of the world we live in now,” said Ross. “Football opinions change so dramatically in such a short period of time. It’s a strange thing nowadays and that’s why you have try to retain a clarity of thought
“If you get caught up in that noise it affects my decision making.
“I’m not playing down the soreness of the game and just because you behave or speak in a certain way doesn’t mean it hurts any less – it’s just about trying to see the bigger picture in a 38 league game season
“We have a good squad, a good mentality and the opportunity to bounce back with three points on Saturday.”