Valletta defender Luke Dimech has been dropped from Malta's squad for tomorrow's friendly match against Georgia after he refused to change the colour of his hair, well-placed sources told The Times yesterday.

Dimech is reported to have turned up for training on Saturday with red hair but this didn't go down well with national coach John Buttigieg who asked the defender to remove the dye before the team's next training session.

It is believed that Dimech, having pondered long on Buttigieg's demand, decided against altering the colour of his hair but this only led to his exclusion from the national squad for tomorrow's match.

Dimech reported for training yesterday morning only to be turned away by Buttigieg who apparently told the stocky defender in no uncertain terms that his hair dye was against his code of conduct.

Contacted by The Times yesterday evening, Buttigieg declined to name the two players who had failed to make the cut, saying that the final 18-man squad would be issued by the Malta FA's media department in due course.

Having announced a 20-man squad on Saturday, Buttigieg yesterday finalised his 18-strong selection. His decision to leave out Dimech meant that Buttigieg only had to drop another player. The Malta coach opted to make do without Jonathan Caruana as the Hibs defender-cum-midfielder has a slight injury problem.

A host of other established players are also out of the reckoning for Buttigieg's first match in charge of the national team. Barnsley striker Daniel Bogdanovic, goalkeeper Justin Haber, who is on the books of Sheffield United, Terrence Scerri, who recently joined Valletta from Hibs, and Etienne Barbara, who is expected to decide his club future today, are not in Malta's squad for tomorrow's friendly .

Final Squad

Goalkeepers: A. Hogg (Valletta), M. Muscat (Hibs).

Defenders: A. Agius (Cassino), I. Azzopardi (Sliema), A. Muscat (Sliema), B. Said (Marsaxlokk), K. Scicluna (Valletta).

Midfielders: G. Agius (Valletta), S. Bajada (Birkirkara), R. Briffa (Valletta), C. Failla (Sliema), R. Fenech (Sliema), J. Pace (Valletta), K. Sammut (Valletta), A. Cohen (Hibs).

Forwards: M. Mifsud, A. Schembri (SK Kaernten), I. Woods (Sliema).

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