McGinn determined Scots will no longer be butt of jokes
JOHN McGINN was so appalled at Scotland being the only home nation not represented at the European Championships in France that he booked a holiday in order to avoid watching it on television.
Now, three years down the line, he is so convinced the national team will make it that he has decided against booking up for next summer.
The Aston Villa midfielder confirmed his emergence as the national team’s main goal threat under Steve Clarke when he added two more goals to his tally against Kazakhstan last night.
That made it seven goals for the campaign, equal to the number that Belgian hot-shot Romelu Lukaku has to his name in Group I.
While Scotland’s Euro 2020 fate will be settled in the play-offs in March, once again it is looking as though there will be bumper representation from teams from the UK.
England and Wales have qualified, while Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland join Scotland in the play-offs.
And McGinn is determined that Scots should be the butt of the joke no longer.
“It was tough in 2016 and, to be honest, I didn’t watch much of the competition,” said McGinn. “I was on the periphery of the squad at the time and know how close we got to qualifying only to fall short.
“So with everyone else there, it was so hard to watch.
“I went on holiday, I was out of the country and spent my time chilling out instead of watching it. But I haven’t booked a holiday for next summer because I believe we’ll get there.
“For a long time it has been Scotland sitting on the sidelines when other teams are playing in major championships.
“There won’t be another country in the Home Nations who are craving getting to this Euros more than us.
“We just want to give the fans, the loyal supporters who turn out to watch us, something to shout about.
“Getting to a major tournament for them is the aim of everyone.”
While Scotland booked that play-off under Alex McLeish, that is three wins on the bounce for the first time in two years and McGinn is convinced that Scotland are a far more serious proposition under Steve Clarke.
“I have never had a run of scoring like this before,” admitted McGinn.
“Naisy has helped me because he links the play and I can feed off the scraps. But it’s odd. I went 15 caps without a goal. And it was annoying me.
“Then I got the goal against Russia and it just seems to have come from there. Hopefully I can carry it on into the play-offs, if it is helping the team and the campaign I am delighted.
“Tonight was a night where it could easily have been the same old Scotland, we concede and then heads drop.
“But we regrouped, got together again and definitely going into the playoffs we are in a much better place.
“We were a squad and a nation battered for confidence at the start of the campaign but slowly and surely we have built it up.
“Getting a strong end to the campaign was massive for us, we have had three wins in a row now and were looking forward to the play-offs.
“In the second half tonight you saw a Scotland team again and hopefully in March we can keep it going.”
With the likes of Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Ryan Fraser and Scott McTominay still to return, Ryan Christie is bullish about our chances of qualification.
‘‘I’ve no preference as to who we get in Friday’s draw for the play-offs,” he said.
“Overall it has been a frustrating campaign but we have the play-offs to fall back on.
“March is still a while away but when it come around we will all be desperate to be there. We are not going to get a better chance than this to reach the Euros.
“It gives us confidence to look at the good players who are still to come back for March,” the Celtic man added.
“But the gaffer has kept a good core of players who know their jobs when called upon and that should help us going into March.”