Steven Whittaker has backed Easter Road team-mate John McGinn to fill the void left by Scotland skipper Scott Brown’s decision to quit international football.
Whittaker, who played alongside Brown both at Hibs and in the national side, revealed he wasn’t surprised to hear the 32-year-old was stepping down to concentrate on his career with Celtic but admitted the 55-times capped midfielder would be a huge loss for Alex McLeish, now back at the helm of the national side for a second time.
He said: “I speak to Scott and I think I knew it was on the cards after the last campaign finished.
“It was a decision he had to make himself for his own career to continue playing at the highest level he possibly can and rest between games is probably very important to prolonging that.”
Scotland cap McGinn who, along with Hearts defender John Souttar has already been described as “a breath of fresh air” by McLeish, has been touted by some as an obvious successor to the 55-times capped Brown, who was persuaded to return to the Scots camp after “retiring” for a first time two years ago. Whittaker can see the similarities between the pair. He said: “Scott, like John, used to be a box-to-box player but his game has evolved and he is now a sitter.
“John has already played for Scotland and been man of the match twice and this season in the Premiership he has shown a consistency to his game. He has all the attributes to play at the top level, he can defend, attack, hold the ball and has a fierce shot.
“John has shown he can score goals as Scott did when he was his age and I’m sure he will get the chance to stake his claim.”
Whittaker, who himself played 31 times in a dark blue jersey, admitted he’ll be interested to see how the Scotland squad will change as McLeish begins to bring his influence to bear, his first match in charge being a friendly at Hampden against Costa Rica next month although the Scots don’t have a competitive game until September.
McLeish, who handed Brown his first cap, was out and about at the weekend, taking in Hibs’ match against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park before dashing to Ibrox to watch Hearts take on Rangers and then travelling to Pittodrie on Sunday to see Celtic defeat Aberdeen.
Whittaker said: “There will be a bit of change with a few senior players dropping out. It will be interesting to see what happens. There’s a while before our first competitive match under Alex so I’m sure he’ll be looking at a lot of games, checking on players and assessing who might be in his plans.
“But John can definitely go in there and do the job.”