John McGinn says grandad made Scotland games a family affair

Scotland's John McGinn, centre, joins pupils at his old school, St Stephens Primary in Clydebank, to promote the Tesco Bank Football Challenge. Picture: SNS Group
Scotland's John McGinn, centre, joins pupils at his old school, St Stephens Primary in Clydebank, to promote the Tesco Bank Football Challenge. Picture: SNS Group
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Football has always been a family affair for John McGinn as he followed his older 
brothers Stephen and Paul into the professional game.

But, as the Hibs midfielder prepares to make his senior Scotland debut against 
Denmark at Hampden on Tuesday, there is one member of the McGinn clan above all others with whom he wants 
to share the pride of that achievement.

His grandfather Jack McGinn, the former Celtic chairman and SFA president, has been a constant source of wise counsel and encouragement throughout the 21-year-old’s development.

“He has helped all three of us,” reflected John. “He has always kept our feet firmly on the ground and that won’t be allowed to change.

“He knows what football is all about and he is a great person to go to for advice. He’s delighted that I’ve been called up for the full squad.

“I was gutted when he wasn’t able to come to watch me in the League Cup final for Hibs a couple of weeks ago because he was in hospital. But, 
thankfully he’s out now and should be at Hampden on Tuesday night.”

As a former SFA president, 83-year-old McGinn has a complimentary seat for every Scotland fixture at Hampden.

Along with Stephen and Paul, currently playing for Wycombe Wanderers and Dundee respectively, John would regularly join him in the posh seats at the national stadium when he was 
younger.

“I was fortunate to be able to go to the Scotland games with my grandad and it’s scary to think I could now be playing in one,” he added.

“We used to get complimentary tickets from him, so my dad, Stephen, Paul and myself would go. If one of us couldn’t make it, my sister Katie would go instead.

“We would be in the lounges afterwards where the players’ families were and I remember being a little starstruck by the whole thing.

“Guys like Darren Fletcher, Scott Brown and Stephen McManus would be there and the fact that I’m now in the same squad as some of them is a little strange.

“I was the same as any other young kid who loved his football, I wanted to get their autographs and get my 
photo taken with them at every game, even if it was for the seventh or eighth time! I won’t be mentioning that when I join up with the squad, though, I need to adapt to being one of that group of players now.”

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan earmarked McGinn for promotion to the senior squad after spending time working with the under-21s, then captained by the former St Mirren player, when they played Ukraine last November.

“It still came as a surprise to me,” added McGinn.

“Myself and the rest of the under-21 squad knew that he was coming along to get used to us as people and to watch how we trained.

“I remember myself, Liam Henderson and Andrew 
Robertson were sitting have a coffee one day in the team hotel when he just grabbed a chair and joined us. Hendo and I were just looking at each other, a little unsure what to say, but Andy knew him from his time with the full squad so it was second nature to him.

“But the manager was just chatting to us about where we lived, whether we were still 
living with our mums and dads and how we were getting on at our clubs. I think he did that with most of the lads.

“It was good to get to know him off the pitch and away from training before any of us made the step up. We were all keen to impress him and, thankfully, I was able to 
do that.”

McGinn’s form for Hibs was also a factor, although he admits that has shaded recently in tandem with a series of disappointing results for 
Alan Stubbs’ side which have dented their promotion hopes.

“The gaffer told me the other day just to forget about what’s happened at Hibs in the past few weeks and to concentrate on winning my first cap,” 
he added.

“It’s good for me to get away and play and it’s good for the other boys as well to get a rest because it’s been a tough 
few weeks.

“That’s not something we’re using as an excuse, we know it’s not been good enough, and when we come back we’ll be ready to go.

“It’s important that you stay on your toes. Complacency is always lingering if you take your foot off the gas, and the past few results have reminded us of that.

“We’re keen to avoid going through another spell like that again. In the first half of the season we were performing week in, week out, whether it was three games a week or just one.

“That’s something we’ve struggled with in the past month, but for a team to be successful it’s something you’ve got to be able to cope with. There’s still a lot to play for. We’ve given ourselves a bit of a gap now to Falkirk in the league, but we’ve got games in hand that we can claw that back.

“The gaffer keeps reminding us that we have to look back on what we’ve done already this season. We can’t sit on it, we’ve got to use it as a motivation to push us on to go and be 
successful.

“We’re really disappointed that we’ve not already got a trophy in the cabinet after losing the League Cup final, but we want promotion and we want the Scottish Cup in the cabinet as well.”

l John McGinn was speaking at the Tesco Bank Football Challenge Festival at 
St Stephen’s Primary School in Clydebank. Over 100,000 children have now taken part in the grassroots schools 
programme.