Hatters are expected to be without midfielder Cameron McGeehan for this weekend’s League Two trip to Cambridge United, after he was suspended by the Northern Ireland FA.
The 20-year-old turned down an international U21 call-up but the Irish FA have imposed a ban on the midfielder for this weekend, although Luton have confirmed they will appeal the decision.
Speaking to the press this afternoon, Town boss John Still said: “Cameron McGeehan was chosen for Northern Ireland U21s but has decided that he doesn’t want to represent Northern Ireland, even though he has done before.
“He’s had a chat with his family, because I think the Irish comes from a grandmother, and as a very confident young man, he feels that England is his country and he doesn’t want to not think he can’t make that step.
“He informed Northern Ireland that that’s what he wanted to do and they have evoked a rule that says while they’re playing in their competition, he can’t play for us, this time.
“As it stands at the moment, he can’t play for us Saturday.”
“They have evoked a rule that says while they’re playing in their competition, he can’t play for us, this time.”John Still
McGeehan has represented Northern Ireland at U17, U19 and U21 level, with his last appearance coming in an U21 Championship qualifier against Serbia in September 2014.
Although he could understand decision by the Northern Irish FA, Still felt it was harsh to prevent McGeehan playing for Luton, as he continued: “I see both sides of the fence. I see from any national team that someone’s been picked that doesn’t want to play for them, them saying well if you’re pulling out, you can’t play for your club.
“Here is a young man who’s decided he doesn’t want to play for that country forever, so I would have thought they wouldn’t have taken those steps, but I’m not in their position and I wouldn’t want to comment about their position.
“My position, an outsider looking in, is I could fully understand them saying how disappointed they are, but Cameron not playing for us when he’s never going to play for Northern Ireland, I’m not sure that’s the right course of action for a young footballer.
“I always try and look at things, what is right and what is wrong. I’m also a person that thinks punishment should fit a crime, well I’m not sure what crime Cameron’s committed.
“He perhaps should have told them out of competition time that he never wanted to play and I understand that and that my be a naiveness because of his age.
“But I’m not even going to defend that, as I don’t even know where it’s come from, it may not be the manager or the coach, it may be, the organisation that runs football in Northern Ireland, they may be the ones who think, well that’s what we think, that’s what were going to do.
“I alway turn things round and go, what if it was your son, would you still think that was the right punishment? If they do, there’s nothing we can do about it and technically we can do nothing about it at the moment, but my opinion is that punishment doesn’t fit the crime in this place.”
Still admitted he had a lot of admiration for McGeehan in making the decision too, especially given how difficult an England call-up for the midfielder could be.
He added: “Cameron said, ‘I’m not disrespecting Northern Ireland but I just feel that I’m at an age where I think I’m getting better and better.’
“With all these young players, I constantly remind them about what they can achieve.
“He may look at what two years ago what Andre (Gray) was doing and what could he be doing in two years time.
“He’s saying to himself, ‘I’m English, I can play for England, should I say no to England now?’ I admire him for that. I’m not saying I admire him for not picking Northern Ireland as I wouldn’t disrespect another country.
“But I admire him that it was probably more difficult to play for England that it is for Northern Ireland, no less so would I admire him if he said ‘I’m going to play for Ireland and get in their World Cup squad,’ I’d admire that ambition and that drive.
“I admire that he’s given it as much thought as he has as it’s a big decision and having made that decision, there’s consequences that looks like he’s got to go with.”