Anthony Stokes says John McGinn’s glory double as Hibs came within ten minutes of smashing Celtic’s 57-match unbeaten run is proof that the Easter Road youngster is getting “better and better”.
Stokes revealed he’s been chewing his team-mates ear about getting himself into goal-scoring positions more often and was delighted to see the 22-year-old hammer two unstoppable shots beyond Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon.
McGinn’s brace, however, was not enough for victory as Callum McGregor, who had opened the scoring for the Hoops, claimed his own second of the game to salvage a point from a match which Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers admitted had given his “invincibles” their biggest scare in the last 16 months.
Now there are increased calls for McGinn to step into the breach left by the injured Scott Brown in Scotland’s final two World Cup qualifying matches against Slovakia and Slovenia with a play-off spot for Gordon Strachan’s squad very much in sight.
And Stokes has no doubts the former St Mirren player – now valued well in excess of £5 million by Lennon in the wake of his weekend performance – is more than ready to meet that challenge.
Pointing out that McGinn had been man of the match on his international debut against Denmark, he said: “He has played at that level and has proved he is ready.
“He just needs to keep on improving, he is still young enough to do that. He’s got great quality. I think he is getting better and better. Probably the one thing he lacks in his game is scoring goals. But to do what he did on a stage like that shows he is improving.
“He is pushing further up the pitch and had two great finishes. It is probably the one thing I have said to him, to try to break in and come on to balls on the edge of the box.
“The distance his two strikes were hit from says it all.
“He was outstanding. To beat a goalkeeper of the quality of Craig Gordon with strikes like that; the work-rate, his overall game was just exceptional. John is one of those players who, even if he isn’t having his best game, gives 100 per cent.
“You can’t ask for any more than that from a player. Like I said, I think he is still improving, he deserves all the plaudits he is getting.”
Stokes insisted Hibs fully merited their point at Celtic Park, adding: “I thought we went 1-0 down against the run of play. But we did great to get ourselves back into the game and take the lead.
“I felt we were actually quite comfortable. The way we set up, we nullified them playing out from the back. We really limited them to just a couple of chances, but it shows you the quality Celtic have, you give them a sniff and they take it.”