John McGinn on Scotland, Brendan Rodgers and checking Hibs scores
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp may believe the UEFA Nations League is the 'most senseless competition in the world of football'.
But former Hibs midfielder John McGinn doesn’t see anything wrong in a tournament which could, at last, end Scotland’s 20-year wait to play on the big stage.
Since appearing in the finals of the World Cup in France in 1998, it has been a litany of failure from successive Scotland squads, both at that level and in the European Championships.
However, with a victory over Albania already under the belt, McGinn sees Thursday’s match against Israel in Haifa as a great opportunity to take a further step towards Euro 2020.
“I don’t think it’s farcical,” insisted McGinn. “I didn’t see his comments but this competition gives us the opportunity to qualify for a major tournament which we all want to do.
“It gives opportunities for nations like ourselves who maybe haven’t been there for a long time. We could be four games away from a finals and we’ve got one win out of one so far. We’re not getting carried away, but this is a good chance for us although Israel will be a tough place to go.
“First and foremost our home record has to be good, but if we can get results away from home it would put us in a strong position.”
McGinn believes this international break in which Scotland will also play a friendly against Portugal at Hampden on Sunday is perfect timing as far as he is concerned, coming just days after Steve Bruce, the manager who took him to Aston Villa in a big money move, was sacked by the English Championship club.
The 23-year-old, however, wouldn’t be drawn on who might replace Bruce with names such as Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers, Arsenal and France legend Thierry Henry and Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe having all been linked with the position.
He said: “It’s never easy and, obviously, Steve Bruce was the manager who signed me and I have a lot to thank him for, he was fantastic for me.
“But that’s football. It happens. It’s just never nice to see him and his staff lose their jobs. As a player, you’ve just got to try to focus on working hard, try to impress the new manager when he comes in.
“There have been a few interesting names linked with the job. But, at any club, there’s always a managerial merry-go-round. Everyone thinks somebody else has got it.
“You’ve just got to wait and trust that the club are doing the right things. Whoever comes in, it doesn’t matter what name they are, if they’re not getting results, there will be pressure.
“When you go down and see the place, it’s an eye-opener. It is a club that deserves to be in the top half of the top flight, a massive club. And that means it’s very demanding.”
McGinn admitted having Rodgers, the manager who failed to take him to Celtic in the summer, linked with Villa was “ironic”, but added: “We never know what is going to happen. The international break has come at a good time for me in that sense.
“Hopefully I get a couple of games for Scotland, go back and have a new manager to settle in with.”
McGinn has become as big a hit with the Villa fans as he was at Easter Road, his phenomenal strike against Sheffield Wednesday having, as he admitted, “gone viral”.
But as happy as he is in Birmingham, he revealed Hibs are never too far from his thoughts, insisting he’s not surprised in the slightest by how well Neil Lennon’s players have started the season.
He said: “They are still one of the first results I look for after the game and I was delighted with their result at the weekend. They have recruited really well. It’s well documented they’d need to transform the midfield but Stevie Mallan is a player I know really well and Mark Milligan has plenty of experience.
“I know Stevie well from our St Mirren days but he’s improved his all-round game. It’s great to see them up near the top of the league. I think it will continue.”