Kenny McLean has insisted his old St Mirren buddie John McGinn fully deserves his place in Scotland boss Gordon Strachan’s plans even although he’s playing Championship football with Hibs.
Like McGinn, McLean has been called up for the first time at full international level but their paths are unlikely to cross. The Aberdeen midfielder is pencilled in for Thursday’s friendly against the Czech Republic in Prague and the Easter Road kid is in line to make his debut when the Scots face Denmark at Hampden next Tuesday.
But while McGinn’s inclusion may have raised some eyebrows given he turned his back on the chance of a move from Paisley to one of a number of Premiership clubs, McLean is in no doubt Scotland’s Under-21 captain fully deserves his promotion.
He said: “I spoke to John just before the announcement and I’m delighted for him. He’s a good lad and has shown his qualities. It’s good to see he has done well since he moved on from St Mirren.”
McLean admitted to being a little daunted to walk into Mar Hall, the luxury hotel on the banks of the River Clyde, to find himself rubbing shoulders with the likes of Allan McGregor, Alan Hutton, Darren Fletcher and Steven Fletcher but he quickly reminded himself that, like them, he was there on merit.
McGinn will have to do likewise when he reports for duty at the weekend to prepare for the second of the matches which signal the start of Scotland’s build-up towards the start of their bid to make the World Cup finals in Russia in two years’ time.
McLean said: “There’s a lot of big names playing at a high level and you and se big players around you. But you have to try and get used to it as soon as possible and enjoy the time.
“You have the chance to represent your country, you have to try and enjoy that. There’s pressure, but you need to take everything in and tell yourself that you are here on merit.
“John is doing well and is here on merit. He should be proud of what he’s doing at Hibs, he’s done well and they still have a good chance of coming up.
“I think it shows the manager will give you an opportunity if you are doing well, no matter whatever the level or age.
“I don’t think you can overlook anybody and I’m sure the manager takes everything into consideration.
“The manager will have done his homework. John has real quality. He’s still a young boy but he’s grabbed the chance at Hibs by the scruff of the neck and he seems to really drive the team on despite his age and I’m sure he will be looking to go on to even bigger things.
“He’s young and this will stand him in good stead and, like myself, hopefully it will be a stepping stone to try and cement a place in the Scotland set up.”
Joining up the Scotland squad was the perfect pick-me-up for McLean after Aberdeen slipped to a disappointing defeat by Motherwell, one which leaves them trailing Celtic in the race for the Premiership title – even if it brought him face to face again with Fir Park boss Mark McGhee, Strachan’s assistant.
He said: “The result is still a wee bit raw. Mark will be delighted with it and I came in on a low.
“It was poor from us. No matter where we go or in whatever situation at this stage of the season we need to pick up as many points as we can. Dropping them at the weekend was a sore one to take.
“But you get a lift being in this environment. To get the chance to come here and play with some top players only helps. Being here keeps me ticking over and it’s great for the confidence.
“I’m focused on the internationals alone and the club stuff gets put on the sidelines. There’s obviously going to be different styles and philosophies so you need to focus on what the manager wants you to do.”
McLean’s call-up highlighted the fact others in Derek McInnes’s squad had been overlooked but, he insisted, the likes of Mark Reynolds, Ryan Jack and Graeme Shinnie will only be all the more desperate to be in future squads.
He said: “Everybody at the club is delighted for me and there were obviously a few who could have been in the squad. But they can’t go into their shell and be disappointed, they just need to keep working hard.”