Neil Lennon admits comparisons between Hibs midfielder John McGinn and former Scotland captain Scott Brown are inevitable – but wrong.
Easter Road kid McGinn is being widely touted as the natural successor to Brown, who announced he was quitting the international scene at the age of 31 to concentrate on his career at Celtic.
Lennon, who had Brown as captain during his time as manager of the Hoops, believes the ex-Hibs star’s decision to do is was “very premature”, although he understands the reasoning behind it.
However, while conceding there are similarities to be drawn between the players, Lennon insisted that, in fact, they were different types of players although he hopes McGinn goes on to enjoy the “stellar” career as Brown.
As McGinn prepares for Scotland’s opening 2018 World Cup qualifying match in Malta tomorrow, his Easter Road boss revealed he wouldn’t be surprised if the former St Mirren player, who turned in a man-of-the-match performance on his international debut against Denmark earlier this year, starts in the Ta’Qali Stadium.
Lennon said: “I spoke with Gordon [Strachan] about him on Monday. We know what his strengths a weaknesses are. Gordon knows the boy as well as I do probably. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start and I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t.
“But the fact he is in the squad and getting the recognition is fantastic. It speaks volumes about his talent and his temperament. He’s a really strong player. He’s got bags of enthusiasm for the game. He’s really good with both feet and athletically he is very strong and a good runner.
“His fitness levels are tremendous and he handles the ball pretty well. He’s also got a goal in him as well – he’s unlucky not to have got off the mark this season. For a kid of that age, there’s plenty of scope in him as well. There are still things in the game he needs to learn but to go away in that company he can only benefit.”
Just 21, McGinn, to many, has all the attributes a young Brown displayed to earn him a £4.5 million move to Celtic nine years ago, still a record fee between two Scottish clubs.
However, urging players like McGinn and Oliver Burke – who only this week made a £13m move from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig – to be given the chance to develop their own careers, Lennon said: “I would not compare him [McGinn] to Scott just yet, we need to let him breathe. I think it is really unfair to make a comparison with John and Scott. It is inevitable, I suppose. People will compare both players but they are different types.
“There are a lot of similarities and I might be contradicting myself a bit, but John is a different type to Scott – he is intelligent for a start!
“John has performed at a high level already as he has played with St Mirren in the top flight and with us now in the Championship. He is a stand-out player.
“The problem is that we run before we can walk when we talk about players. Oliver is the latest as he has only had a handful of games for Nottingham Forest. He has gone for big money and the Gareth Bale similarities are coming our already, which is ridiculous. We can’t set them up there and then criticise the kids for not reaching those levels.
“There will be similarities between John and Scott, and I get that. Scott has had a stellar career and I hope John has a similar sort of career. John McGinn will want to be John McGinn, he won’t want to be Scott Brown.
“If there is a role model for him to look up to then I think Scott is a good example of where he should set his sights.”
McGinn has spoken this week of how Brown took him under his wing as he made his Scotland debut at Hampden and Lennon believes the Scotland captain could have hung around for a while longer.
He said: “Scott will be a miss to the Scotland squad. At 31, I think it is very premature but I understand his thinking behind it. He’s a naturally fit boy. He had his injury problems last season but he looks back to full fitness now and playing very well.
“There are other good characters in that Scotland squad – Darren Fletcher, for example. He would be a fantastic role model for any player breaking through the ranks.”