John McGinn: World Cup play-off place is Scotland's to lose

Scotland face Slovakia on Thursday night in the first of their crucial World Cup qualifying double-header where they know nothing less than six points will do in their hunt for a playoff place.

Scotland's John McGinn in training. Picture: SNS
Scotland's John McGinn in training. Picture: SNS

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John McGinn in exalted company after double against Celtic

Gordon Strachan was dealt a double injury blow with the news that Celtic duo Stuart Armstrong and skipper Scott Brown will miss the match at Hampden and the trip to Slovenia three days later.

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This could mean a start for Hibs midfielder John McGinn, who warmed up for the international break with a double on Neil Lennon’s return to Parkhead as the Easter Road side claimed a 2-2 draw.

Scotland's John McGinn in training. Picture: SNS

The 22-year-old has won four caps to date and could be in line for his first competitive appearance among the starting XI.

Though not in a position himself to dictate his own fate - that will lie with the manager - he is glad Scotland’s passage to the play-offs is pretty much in their own hands.

Mathematically, the Tartan Army could still miss out as the last placed group runners-up. Wales and Bosnia and Herzegovina currently both share the lowest points totals, with each capable of reaching 20 points.

Strachan’s men can also only get to 20 points, but currently have a greater goal difference than both nations, and should feel confident at least one other contender will slip up should Scotland secure four successive wins to finish the group campaign.

Scotland's John McGinn in training. Picture: SNS

“It’s good knowing we can decide our own future and we know how we can succeed, and it’s our fault if we don’t,” said McGinn

“It’s never nice looking over your shoulder and needing other results but sometimes that happens in football. It’s a lot better to know your future is in your own hands.

“It’s up to you to go and put on big performances in big games and we’ll be prepared for that. It’s always better than having to concentrate on ourselves then going into look at other scores after the game.

“All we need to do is worry about ourselves and try and stay as focused as we can.”

McGinn broke through the youth system at St Mirren, along with brothers’ Stephen and Paul, where Stephen has since returned as captain, and John says he’ll always be grateful to the Paisley club for their help in getting him where he is today.

He added: “At the time it seemed a million miles away but St Mirren is such a good club. In youth system and I was always given the chance to play.

“The advice I would give to young players is always give St Mirren an opportunity. Stevie Mallan has just left and Lewis Morgan is playing really well. He’s probably got the same ambitions as me to play in the national team.

“At the time at St Mirren I didn’t see it coming but I’m delighted that it’s now came to fruition and I’ll be forever grateful to the club for that.”