BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
JOHN McGINN insists he is determined to be lining up against Slovenia next weekend – not Falkirk.
Hibs head coach Neil Lennon has stated that he hopes his midfield talisman will be released from international duty in time to face the Bairns on Saturday, should it become clear he will not feature at Hampden on Sunday.
However, McGinn is adamant he can contribute to Scotland’s World Cup qualification bid and has no desire to leave the camp early, insisting he can use the upcoming friendly against Canada to play his way into contention.
The 22-year-old said: “I’m a Scotland player for the week and looking forward to the Canada game. If I get the chance to show what I can do – then I want to stake a claim for the Slovenia game.
“I will always be willing to play in any game I am needed but, first and foremost the country is the most important thing.
“It is a massive game on Sunday and if I can help the squad at all, then I will be there.
“My mindset has to be to impress on Wednesday and give myself the best chance to be involved on Sunday.”
McGinn has already made a promising impact on the international scene, earning a bottle of bubbly as reward for a man of the match display on his debut against Denmark last year.
Like his League Cup and Scottish Cup winner’s medals, the champagne was handed over to mum Mary for safe-keeping – but he hopes further sparkling performances will herald more keepsakes.
He recalled: “The most important thing that night was that we managed to beat Denmark – but I was delighted with the man of the match award.
“I gave that Champagne to my mum, she looks after the keepsakes so that I don’t lose them. I want to make sure it’s the first of many, rather than sitting on its own!
“I still remember my first call-up. It was like Christmas morning. Every Scottish boy wants to play for their country and I have the chance that thousands of people in the country have dreamed of.
“It is about grasping that opportunity and capitalising on it the way I did last year.”
While his maiden call may have seemed like a dream, McGinn has swiftly established himself within the group and is adamant he is far from “starry-eyed” when around the likes of Scott Brown and Darren Fletcher.
He has learned plenty from the Scotland stalwarts but is certainly not cowed – and firmly believes he can challenge for a place in the sides to face Canada and Slovenia in the coming six days.
McGinn continued: “You need to get over [the awe] very quickly. You are in the squad for a reason, the manager believes you can contribute. You are not there to be a tourist, you are there to help the team.
“You can learn from just about every member of the squad. Darren [Fletcher] and Scott [Brown] have had great careers, but so have James McArthur, James Morrison and all the other midfielders in there.
“They have given me plenty of inspiration and advice throughout my time in the squad and I feel like every time I have come away with Scotland, I have managed to improve. But I feel like I give the manager a different option.
“I am determined to show I am more than capable of competing for a place.”
McGinn has gained some high-profile admirers, with Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers singling him out for praise following Hibs’ 3-1 Scottish Cup winner over Hearts, and Sunderland boss David Moyes reportedly running the rule over him last week.
He continued: “Any time someone comes out and says nice things, that is always good to hear but it isn’t hard to stay grounded.
“My brothers are involved in the game and are always there for me. They know how high you can get in football – but they also know how low it can get – so there is no chance I’ll be getting carried away.”
McGinn, meanwhile, says Jason Cummings would not let anyone down if he lands a Scotland call – but reckons his Hibs teammate may need to be patient.
He added: “I think if the manager called on him, he would be ready, but you can’t pick everyone and Jason knows that. He is a top player, a great teammate and hopefully one day along the line he will be involved.”