John McGinn fully intends to play his way into contention for Scotland’s World Cup qualifier against Slovenia, despite the desire of Hibernian head coach Neil Lennon to have him released from international duty early.
The 22-year-old is expected to win his third senior cap on familiar territory when Canada visit Easter Road on Wednesday evening, just four days before the Hibees are due to host Falkirk in a crucial Championship fixture.
Lennon has publicly stated that, should it become clear McGinn is surplus to requirements for Sunday’s fixture at Hampden, he would like to see the player return to Leith in time for the visit of the Bairns.
McGinn, however, is adamant he can contribute to Scotland’s World Cup qualification bid and has no desire to leave the camp early.
“I’m a Scotland player for the week and looking forward to the Canada game,” he explained. “If I get the chance to show what I can do, then I want to stake a claim for the Slovenia game.
“I will always be willing to play in any game I am needed but, first and foremost, the country is the most important thing.
“It is a massive game on Sunday. If I can help the squad at all, then I will be there.
“It’s not a conversation I’m going to have with the manager. That is for them to decide. I will just focus on my training and whatever happens, happens, but my mindset has to be to impress on Wednesday and give myself the best chance to be involved on Sunday.”
McGinn’s confidence that he can is indicative of a player who feels at home within the Scotland set-up, understandably so, given his handy habit of raising his game for the big occasions.
With League Cup and Scottish Cup wins already under his belt, McGinn was man of the match in the recent Scottish Cup win over Hearts – garnering praise from Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers – and landed the same accolade when he made his international debut against Denmark. “I gave that [man of the match] champagne to my mum, she looks after the keepsakes,” he recalled with a smile. “I want to make sure it’s the first of many, rather than sitting on its own!
“I still remember my first call-up like it was Christmas morning. Every Scottish boy wants to play for his country and I have the chance that thousands of people in the country have dreamed of.
“But it is about grasping that opportunity and capitalising on it the way I did last year. You need to get over [the awe] very quickly. You are in the squad for a reason; the manager believes you can contribute. You are not there to be a tourist.
“Guys like Darren [Fletcher], Scott [Brown], James McArthur and James Morrison have given me plenty of inspiration and advice throughout my time in the squad, but I feel like I give the manager a different option and I am determined to show I am more than capable of competing for a place.”
McGinn believes clubmate Jason Cummings, pictured, would be similarly capable of rising to the challenge of international football.
The 20-goal striker has made it clear that he feels capable of leading the line for his nation and, while McGinn has urged the irascible striker to be patient, he is adamant Cummings would not let anyone down in Scottish colours.
“Jason is a confident lad and he just needs to keep playing well and scoring goals,” added McGinn. “If he keeps playing the way he has been then I’m sure he will impress people but, for the time being, there is no-one really he could replace.
“I think if the manager called on him, he would be ready, but you can’t pick everyone and Jason knows that. He is a top player, a great team-mate and hopefully one day along the line he will be involved.”