Aston Villa and Scotland's John McGinn lifts lid on coronavirus isolation and thorny issue of player vaccination

As someone for whom perpetual motion appears to be his default setting both on and off the pitch, John McGinn was never going to cope well with ten days of self-isolation.

John McGinn back in training with the Scotland squad at Oriam on Friday morning after missing the trip to Denmark following the return of a positive coronavirus test result. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

The return of a positive Covid-19 test result last week proved especially frustrating for the Scotland midfielder as it came on the day he was scheduled to receive his second dose of vaccination.

“I thought I was immune but the virus caught up with me eventually,” reflects McGinn as he prepares to return to action for his country in Saturday night’s must-win World Cup qualifier against Moldova at Hampden.

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“I was asymptomatic. I’d had one jab and ironically my second was due on the day I tested positive, which was a bit of a nightmare.

John McGinn pictured during Scotland's Euro 2020 finals match against Czech Republic at Hampden in June. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

“But thankfully I didn’t get any symptoms, which was probably down to the jag. I’d encourage everyone to get it as I’m sure it’s a lot worse for some people.

“It’s a tricky one. I was never against the vaccine but there are a lot of players who are still unsure.

“I don’t know about (whether players should have got) it earlier. We had protocols that protected us more than other walks of life. We had the space to socially distance and so on.

“So whether players should have been double jagged earlier, I’m best not getting involved in that as I’d get chewed up.”

John McGinn has scored three goals for Scotland in the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign so far, including this late equaliser against Austria at Hampden in March. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Treadmill instead of Tennent’s

Having missed Wednesday night’s 2-0 defeat to Denmark in Copenhagen, McGinn returned to training with the Scotland squad on Thursday.

“I’m feeling fine,” said the Aston Villa man. “It’s been a tough ten days. I’m probably the worst player in the squad to be stuck in the house for ten days.

“There was a bit of PlayStation and I was watching every game on TV under the sun.

“I was chewing the walls. I think a few years ago I would have been battering the Deliveroo and firing into a few cans of Tennent’s!

“You live and learn but this time Villa were great and they dropped off a treadmill at the house to keep me ticking over.

“I feel okay, a bit more tired than normal on Thursday but better today and ready to go.

“The hardest thing about being back in training was getting the ball at the feet again, because you do get a wee bit rusty. I would have got the ball out at home but the Mrs isn’t that great as the one-twos!

“It was tough being in the house but harder to watch the boys knowing I couldn’t help out. We’re a tight-knit group and when the result doesn’t go your way it hurts you can’t go and help in some way.

“I’m a nightmare when it comes to watching. It’s the same with watching my brothers Stephen and Paul play or being on the bench.

“You’ve just willing the side on. I don’t get nervous playing but watching is just horrible. I didn’t enjoy it one bit.

“We all just want Scotland to win and when I’m watching I’m no different to any supporter. I’m shouting at the ref and everything.”

Fading hopes

McGinn was Scotland’s top scorer in their Euro 2020 qualifying group with seven goals and leads the way again in the current World Cup 2022 campaign with three so far.

But the 26-year-old former St Mirren and Hibs player accepts Scotland’s hopes of a top two finish in Group F, with the runners-up earning a play-off spot, are far more problematic after the setback in midweek.

“There is 100 percent less margin for error for us now,” he added. “When you go into the group, you always have your eye on first place and you aim for that as much as we can.

“We are not naïve enough not to know that is maybe a wee bit out of our reach now with Denmark winning every game.

“There are three teams now battling it out for second. Israel play Austria on Saturday night so something has got to give there. It’s an opportunity for us to get a win at home against Moldova and get ourselves back in the mix.

“It is definitely still within our reach. It is up to us to go and grab it and give ourselves a chance to get through to the World Cup via the play-offs. It’s the hard way, but it’s the Scottish way and hopefully we can do it that way.”

Looking for the feel good factor

McGinn is hopeful the return of a sizeable Tartan Army contingent to Hampden can energise the Scotland players and inspire them to deliver a performance which will get the home fans firmly back onside.

“There will be 35,000 Scotland supporters at Hampden for the first time in two years,” he said.

“I focused on that excitement to get me through the last week or so when I was self-isolating. Hopefully we can deal with a game we are expected to win the way we have done in similar matches in recent years.

“The fans will make a huge difference. It’s about us putting on performances that will fill Hampden again. We are not going to get sell out crowds unless we start playing and entertaining. We need to get bums off seats.

“We’re not naive, if we don’t get results then the crowds will dwindle again. It’s up to us to entertain on Saturday and make sure the next home game against Israel in October is a sell out crowd. I’m keen to get that feel good factor back that was building around the team going into the Euros.”

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