Thirty players, one ball, one goalkeeper and a nearby patch of grass – that was all John McGinn and his cousin Kieran Gibbons needed to keep them happy.
Tomorrow, though, is an entirely different proposition as the pair square up to each other with three vital points at stake, McGinn desperate for the victory to keep Hibs climbing the Championship table and Gibbons equally so as he bids to help steer Livingston out of the basement position.
It’s a far cry from their early years but, 20-year-old McGinn insisted, those family get-togethers paved the way for both his and Gibbons moves into the professional game.
The midfielder said: “We’re a massive family, but very close-knit, closer than other families. There was a grassy area behind where we lived in Clydebank and we’d all go out there to play football. There could be thirty of us and with just one goalkeeper. It was every man for himself!
“I used to get jealous of Kieran when he was beating me as I wanted to be the best in the family. It was very tough. Real tough tackling. We must have done it from the age of six to 17. We never grew out of it and I think it made us the players we are today.”
McGinn and his two older brothers Stephen and Paul along with cousin Kieran now make a living playing football but, the Hibs youngster, claimed, “there’s another few who could end up breaking through.”
There will certainly be more than a few family present at Almondvale tomorrow just as there were when John and Kieran, skipper of last season’s Aberdeen Under-20 side, faced each other at St Mirren Park a couple of years ago, the Hibs kid joking his cousin has yet to reply to a text requesting a few more complimentary tickets.
McGinn recalled: “The game was in Paisley, an afternoon kick-off, so all the relatives who could make it came along. I don’t really enjoy playing against family members. I found it strange playing against Paul last season when St Mirren faced Dundee but that was different because we stayed in the same household which made it a little bit harder. But Kieran and I just need to be professional and do our job which I am sure we will. If there is a tackle there to be won we’ll both go for it just as we did in that Under-20 match. That’s the best way but as soon as the final whistle goes, we’ll be friends again.
“Kieran is a good player, one we’ll have to watch. He’s got a great attitude and I’m sure he will go far in the game.
“I suppose one of us is going to be unhappy tomorrow.
“I hope it’s Kieran although every other week I’ll be delighted to see him do well.”
While Livingston may be propping up the table with just one point so far, McGinn was adamant that he and his team-mates will pay Mark Burchill’s side due respect although they travel aiming to clock up a fourth-successive league win.
He said: “We’re on a good run and want to keep it going so that if other teams slip-up we are ready to pounce.
“However, Livingston will be looking to get a run of their own going so we have to be wary of them. They’ll come out flying and looking for a reaction after last week’s result (a 4-2 defeat by Morton) and they do carry a threat in the wider areas and up top.”
McGinn, though, believes Hibs are ready for whatever tactics an opposition side might adopt against them, admitting he’s had to adapt his own game after St Mirren’s grim battle against relegation.
“I’ve been told I need to be a bit more patient,” he explained, “We are getting a lot more of the ball than we did at Saints when we didn’t get many opportunities and when space opened up we had to go for it.
“Hibs are a scalp in this league, a big club and teams are going to come and make themselves hard to beat so we are just going to have to be ready for both that or if they’re going to have a go at us.
“We’re doing a lot of work on the training ground, shifting the ball from side to side, making sure that when opportunities arise the right pass, the right decision is made.”
McGinn claimed his first goal for Hibs, to clinch the 3-0 win over Alloa and, he admitted, that’s one shortcoming in his game he’s anxious to address.
He said: “It was a relief more than anything else.
“I’ve had shots from outside the box but I need to get inside it more often – the goals look much bigger the nearer you get.
“Every successful team gets goals from all over the pitch and hopefully everyone can chip in.”