Somerset Park to Wembley is like moving from a council flat to London’s Park Lane. John McGinn makes that jump this week after scoring his first goal of the season in Hibs’ 3-0 win at Ayr United last weekend.
The stark contrast doesn’t faze the 22-year-old midfielder in the slightest. He is aiming to impress Scotland coach Gordon Strachan and force his way into the Scotland team to face England tomorrow.
“I’m going from Somerset Park one week to Wembley the next. It’s crazy but that’s football,” he said. “You don’t get to where you want to be without going through all these different places. I couldn’t do it without my team-mates at Hibs either. They all sent me good luck messages so I’m hoping I can really do them proud.
“It’s a dream come true if you get a chance to be involved. You work so hard to get to a level and you need to grab your chance with both hands. We’ve all got an opportunity to get a positive result and hopefully we do that.”
McGinn is very much mindful of the opportunity as he tries to impose himself at international level. He made his competitive Scotland debut in last month’s defeat by Slovakia and is now hungry for more.
“You always need to be on your toes. A lot of people have missed out on this squad who feel they should be in it,” he admitted. “It’s up to myself to keep impressing when I’m here and establish myself in the squad. Obviously, my aim now is to try and force my way into the starting line-up. That isn’t going to be easy but it’s my aim. I got my competitive debut last time. You’re always looking to go one step further and I’m an ambitious boy. I feel as if I can do it. I just have to impress the manger this week and put some thoughts in his head.”
Has Strachan given him any encouragement? “He’s very laid back that way. He spoke to me after the Slovakia game and said I did well. I took a lot of positives from it. I’d rather the result was more positive for the country but it wasn’t to be. Personally, I was delighted to come on and I feel I did myself no harm. If I replicate that this week, hopefully I’ve given myself a chance tomorrow.”
If successful, he will likely find himself in midfield alongside the returning Scott Brown. McGinn is seen by many as the natural successor to the Celtic captain at international level.
“I think we’re a little bit different. The manager has different options and hopefully I can partner him at some point like I did against Denmark in March,” said McGinn. “I think we’d both run through a brick wall to get the ball. We both might argue who is better on the ball but we’ll let him argue about that.”
Brown’s long-term Scotland future remains uncertain despite him coming out of retirement to face England.
“I hope for the country’s sake he doesn’t leave any time soon. It’s great to have him back,” admitted McGinn. “He was always a tough opponent. You knew you had to be at the top of your game and that gives you a wee boost. I think if you go head-to-head with him, he enjoys it. It brings the best out of him. We had a few tussles against each other so it’s good to be on the same side as him.
“There are lots of good and different midfielders here and I just take little bits from everyone’s game to try and make me better. I’m lucky to sit and listen to them at dinner and feel their experience of the game. They’ve been through what I’ve been through.
“He [Brown] has been telling me about restaurants in Edinburgh recently. He gives you bits and bobs which are really helpful. It’s good to have contacts like that who have been along the same path as me. If I can have a career half as good as Scott, Fletch or James Morrison, I’ll be delighted.”
The McGinn family will all attend Wembley hoping to see John involved. “My mum and dad will travel down, my brother lives down there so they’ll all be at the game. Once you’re there, you need to get over that and focus on the job in hand. If you’re selected, you need to get over the fact it’s a big game and do your job for the team and for the country. That’s what I’m prepared to do.
“You remember you’re living everyone’s dream. You’ve got the opportunity to play in one of the biggest games on the calendar.”