John McGinn can be Scotland star, says Lennon

John McGinn has impressed at Hibs this season and misses the Irn-Bru Cup clash in Turriff because he's on Scotland duty in Malta. Photograph: Ian Georgeson

John McGinn has impressed at Hibs this season and misses the Irn-Bru Cup clash in Turriff because he's on Scotland duty in Malta. Photograph: Ian Georgeson

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While fringe players will be given their chance to impress against Highland League side Turriff United in the Irn-Bru Cup, there will be plenty of interest in those representing Hibernian in Malta.

John McGinn has been a talismanic performer for the Easter Road side since he transferred to Leith last 
season and, while it won him the Scottish Cup with the club and countless admirers, it is his display in his Scotland debut that forced everyone to sit up and take notice and earned him a return to Gordon 
Strachan’s squad for the World Cup qualifiers.

Getting those qualifers underway just a few hours after Hibs try to progress in the less high profile domestic tournament, McGinn will be fully focused on Scotland, with his club manager, Neil Lennon, convinced he has the mental and physical capacity to make the step from international challenge matches to help the nation fulfil the dream of qualifying for a major tournament for the first time in two decades.

“Friendlies are friendlies. But for him to make that step up and the transition would be excellent,” said the Hibs boss. “It speaks volumes about his talent and his temperament. I spoke with Gordon about him on Monday. We know what his strengths and weaknesses are. Gordon knows the boy as well as I do. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start and I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t.

“But the fact he’s in the squad and getting the recognition is fantastic. He’s a really strong player. He’s got bags of enthusiasm for the game. He’s really good with both feet and athletically he’s very strong and a good runner.

“For a kid of that age [he’s 21], there’s plenty of scope in him as well. There are still things in the game he needs to learn and to go away in that company, he can only benefit. I think he’s got a bright future.”

Lennon is not the first manager to wax lyrical about the young midfielder’s attributes, with his enthusiasm, workrate and determination to win earning him comparisons to Scott Brown, who has opted to sit out Scotland’s qualifying campaign, preferring to conserve energy and concentrate on prolonging his club career. But while Lennon sees the potential in the player he inherited, he wants people to see McGinn as his own man.

“I think it is really unfair to make a comparison with John and Scott Brown,” added Lennon. “It is inevitable that people will compare both players but they are different types. John is intelligent for a start!

“John has performed at a high level already as he has played for St Mirren in the top flight and with us now in the Championship. He is a stand-out player but I would not compare him to Scott just yet. We need to let him breathe.

“Scott has had a stellar career and I hope John has a similar sort of career. John McGinn will want to be John McGinn he won’t want to be Scott Brown. But if there is a role model for him to look up to then I think Scott is a good example of where he should set his sights.”

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