Hibs' Paul McGinn reflects on week with Scotland and how call-up came about

Paul McGinn spoke after his Scotland debut, describing it as being thrown “straight in at the deep end”.

Paul McGinn had just finished a 'meaty' training session with Hibs before his Scotland call.

But, described as the brains of the footballing-family triumvirate thanks to his degree in economics and finance, while John can be envisaged running and dive-bombing into the pool, and Stephen can be pictured messing about trying to quell his younger sibling’s precocious exuberance by dunking him, it is easy to imagine Paul as the one who would calmly walk down the steps and glide into frame.

After all, this is a guy who has consistently progressed without making a huge splash.

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While he and Andy Robertson played in the same Queen’s Park side, their career trajectories since have differed. The left-back has won the English Premier League and the Champions’ League, McGinn has slowly but surely moved up the ranks and has proved the epitome of steady reliability during his time at Hibs. He discovered he has also had some well-placed advocates.

Scotland's John McGinn and Paul McGinn celebrate at full time against Austria.

“They told me John has been banging the drum for me with the SFA for about five years! That is a nice thing. He is a top player and it is always great to have them in your team,” says McGinn.

“He is the class clown and they all love him so, I suppose that helps. Che Adams told me I’m completely different to John but I said it is not possible for any household to have two of them!

“But I’m not a young boy any more so I know a lot of these boys from my career.”

And he has earned respect of those who play alongside him – and have nothing but positive things to say about him – and his manager, who recognises his input and has championed his career throughout his coaching journey.

“Maybe the fact I started at Queen’s Park, it was going to take me a few years to get up and running up the leagues,” explains the defender. “I felt I had gone up another level all together with Dundee and then again with St Mirren. It has been quite a few years now at a high level and I want to keep that going.

“I did well at St Mirren and won the Player of the Year but if you are down fighting then it is really hard to get recognition.

“That is the way football goes. I came in here last year and been consistent in a team doing well and I guess it has helped a bit.”

Since they linked up again in Leith, Jack Ross has had the 30-year-old right-back pencilled in as one of the first names on the teamsheet and appointed him vice-captain for the current campaign. The fact is, he trusts him.

So, when Scotland boss Steve Clarke was looking for someone to provide cover at full-back in such a huge World Cup qualifying match, he was comfortable sending out his SOS.

“I suppose it is a bit surreal how quick it all happened. I was not expecting it and then the game.

“We had training here [Hibs], it was quite a meaty training session before a few days off and I was just driving home and they phoned and said someone would have to come to my house [to do the Covid tests etc]. Then we got through to the Oriam late at night and I had to stay in the room until I found out in the morning whether I was good to go or not.”

Previously, he was called into the group but was an unused sub. This time he was given the last 13 minutes to impress – and team up with brother John, inset – and he hopes that, now he has his foot in the door, he can feature again.

“The last one I went in to was a Covid-hit camp so you think is that my one chance? To get warmed up for half an hour and never play, never get on? But you never know so you keep plugging away. It is international level so there are going to be a lot of people vying for the position. Stephen O’Donnell has done really well for the country and everyone is really excited about Nathan Patterson so it is going to be tough. But seasons are long, injuries happen and suspensions happen so I will try and keep myself available.”

If only to get another jersey, having given his strip from that Austria game away. “Actually for once my dad asked for it. He never asks so it is bizarre he asked for it. But here you go, it takes the decision away. No-one else asked for it but he did.”

At club level he and his Hibs team-mates can go top of the Premiership if they triumph in today’s Edinburgh derby. Those targets are worth aiming for in isolation but for McGinn and the men around him with their own international ambitions, big performances in big games also help to convince national bosses that they have the mettle for the likes of World Cup qualifiers.

Earlier this year, his brother John was again extolling Paul’s virtues as a player and as a person but said he needed more self-belief.

“I suppose it is about perception really because there are those who are close to me who will say I have got plenty. I feel as confident as I ever have been and comfortable when I am in the team.”

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