John McGinn has revealed he’s ready to make a frantic dash from international duty with Scotland to aid Hibs’ promotion bid.
The Easter Road midfielder is expected to be part of Gordon Strachan’s squad which will travel to London next month for the crunch World Cup qualifying match against England at Wembley.
But that game takes place the night before Neil Lennon’s side face Falkirk in the Ladbrokes Championship, one of their biggest rivals for the title and the one automatic promotion place it carries, at Easter Road.
However, 21-year-old McGinn told the Evening News that he’d happily be involved in both games in less than 24 hours if possible.
He said: “I’ll have to wait until the squad is announced and see if I’m involved. It’s not far from London to Edinburgh so I’d be happy to get a flight back and play for Hibs as the Falkirk game is a massive one for us, but we’d have to see if that would be possible.”
McGinn missed Hibs’ Irn-Bru Cup exit at the hands of his ex-club St Mirren as he was part of Gordon Strachan’s squad for the double header against Lithuania and Slovakia and is likely to be the only Easter player on international duty at Wembley, meaning they’d be unable to ask for a postponement.
Falkirk, however, could also face a similar problem in that first choice goalkeeper Danny Rogers may be with the Republic of Ireland’s squad which plays in Austria that day, having been called up by Martin O’Neill for their previous two World Cup qualifying matches,
Although disappointed to have taken only a point from the matches with Lithuania and Slovakia, McGinn – who made his competitive Scotland debut as a substitute in the 3-0 defeat in Trnava last Tuesday – believes both he and Hibs will benefit from his inclusion in Strachan’s plans.
Former Scotland Under-21 captain McGinn, who won his first full cap with a man-of-the-match performance in a friendly against Denmark at Hampden in March, said: “It was a disappointing result obviously against Slovakia, but on a personal level I was over the moon, it was a very proud moment in making my competitive debut.
“When I go away with Scotland I can only get better, learning off good players, a good manager and his coaching staff. That benefits me and Hibs.”
McGinn returned to domestic action, only to see team-mate Marvin Bartley sent off for the second time in a month as Hibs drew 0-0 with Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park. But he is convinced Bartley will succeed with an appeal against his sending off, just as he was following his dismissal against Ayr United when referee Nick Walsh later admitted he’d got it wrong, rescinding the red card and replacing it with a yellow.
Now Bartley faces a similar fight to clear his name, having been sent off in controversial circumstances once more having, according to Easter Road boss Neil Lennon, been accused by referee Stephen Finnie of retaliating and standing on the groin of Raith Rovers player Bobby Barr.
Bartley was clearly bemused by the decision and was said to have been distraught, later tweeting: “Today I will be practising how to stop in mid-air and also how to ‘boot’ someone half my size and not spin 180 degrees and end up on my bum.”
Today Scotland star McGinn insisted Bartley had done nothing wrong, a view he says is backed up by the Capital club’s own video evidence.
Asked if he felt there was a sense of injustice within the Easter Road squad – Lewis Stevenson having also been sent off after picking up two yellow cards against Queen of the South – McGinn said: “Absolutely. The referee has had a bad day at the office, we’ve all had them. Marv puts himself about but often it looks worse than it is and I think when you watch it back it’s not a red card.
“I feel sorry for him, he’s a big part of the team and when he’s not there it’s difficult.”
McGinn revealed he and his team-mates knew within minutes that Bartley had been the victim of another poor decision. He said: “We are lucky, our video analyst Calvin Charlton was there with his lap-top at half-time and we could see Marv had done nothing wrong, that he had nothing to apologise to the rest of us for. I think the appeal will be successful .”
Bartley’s dismissal eight minutes from half-time had, McGinn admitted, made it a tough afternoon for Lennon’s players, although the point gained from the no-scoring draw allied to Queens’ surprise 5-0 hammering by Morton at Palmerston Park lifted Hibs to the top of the Championship table by virtue of goal difference.
The 21-year-old said: “It’s always tough when you go to Stark’s Park, especially when you go a man down so early in the game, so it was a good point to take us back to the top. We weren’t aware of what was happening in Dumfries until after our game, but it’s a long season and there’s going to be a lot of twists and turns.
“I actually thought we were a little bit unfortunate not to get all three points as even with ten men we were the better teams. If only we’d had 11 men on the pitch. It’s obviously a tough task to play with ten but we take the point and are happy with it.”
McGinn agreed Lennon’s players could only wonder “what if” had they retained a full complement against Ayr, Queens and now Raith, but insisted Hibs approach to the game didn’t change despite being a man short.
He said: “We have the players in the dressing room that whether we have all 11 or ten we can be dangerous. We still created good chances. We were disappointed not to get the win but I think it showed the quality we have. We are top of the league and I think we deserve it.
“Now it is a case of focusing on Saturday’s match at Dunfermline and looking to kick on. We’ll be looking to keep 11 on the pitch and hopefully get the breaks we’ve not been getting.”
Although it is now five games without a win in all competitions, the midfielder believes the 1954 Hibs fans who made up the bulk of the 3753 crowd in Kirkcaldy saw a team giving everything for the cause.
He said: “I don’t think there’s anyone in the dressing room who didn’t give it their all and that’s the way it should be. There’s quality in the team, it’s coming back and hopefully next week we can turn it around.”