BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hibernian head coach Alan Stubbs has lauded Easter Road ‘gem’ John McGinn following his Scotland call-up – and has backed the gifted midfielder to handle the step up with aplomb.
The 21-year-old has been a smash hit for the Hibees following his switch from St Mirren last summer, scoring four goals in 35 outings and emerging as a lynchpin at the heart of Alan Stubbs’ League Cup finalists.
He has juggled club commitments with captaining Scotland at under-21 level and, after helping to oversee a youth gathering last November, Gordon Strachan has decided to give McGinn his first senior nod.
With the national boss selecting two separate squads for the friendlies against Czech Republic and Denmark later this month, Strachan named the Hibs man in the roster to face the Scandinavians at Hampden.
Fellow uncapped prospects Liam Cooper, Kieran Tierney and Oliver Burke will also face the Danes, however McGinn is the only player from the Scottish Championship to have made either squad.
And Stubbs praised: “It’s probably as a player the biggest accolade you can have, playing for your country and I can see why he has been selected.
“His performances have been very good and I am sure Gordon [Strachan] and his staff have been very impressed by his performances this year. I’m delighted for him, he’s a brilliant lad, a gem to work with.
“He’ll give himself the best possible opportunity to be the best he can and, as a manager, a player with those attributes is great to see.”
Stubbs has no doubt McGinn will thrive in the senior set-up and reckons this is just the next step in his undoubted rise to the top.
He added: ”Whether you are a manager or a journalist you look at players and you think ‘he can play higher.’
“John is one of them. There is only one direction John is going to go in if he keeps doing what he is doing. It is an upward curve for John.”
McGinn, meanwhile, is determined to ensure his maiden senior call-up is not his last.
The delighted Hibee said: “As a young boy it’s something you try to achieve, but all I’ve been given is an opportunity and I want to grab that with both hands.
“It came as a massive surprise. I was only concentrating on the under-21 squad and, although I have aspirations, I was realistic. So it was a very pleasant surprise.
“I’m going to go there, learn as much as I can from experienced professionals and hopefully impress. I don’t want it to be my last [call-up], but I will need to be at the top of my game to show the coaching staff of Scotland what I can do.”
With Jason Cummings and Liam Henderson also named in the Scotland under-21 squad to face France and Northern Ireland, Hibs have requested their Championship clash against Dumbarton on March 26 is postponed.