There is a certain irony in Dylan McGeouch being included in Alex McLeish’s squad while fellow midfielder Robert Snodgrass is one of the more notable omissions.
Because, according to the international newcomer, he probably would not have been able to produce the kind of form that has caught the eye of the new Scotland boss Alex McLeish had it not been for the Aston Villa winger.
Since joining Hibs from Celtic, initially on loan and then on a three-year deal that will take him to this summer, McGeouch has been plagued by niggling injuries that have made it difficult for him to enjoy an unobstructed run in the team or find consistency. Which is where Snodgrass entered the equation.
From the same neck of the woods, they have mutual acquaintances. More crucially, they often eat in the same restaurant and the Villa player put him in touch with someone who had helped him with his own injuries, a man he would refer to only as “Ronan”.
“I spoke to Robert Snodgrass in a restaurant in Glasgow and he told to me about his setbacks at Hull City, with his hip and his knee,” said the 25-year-old. “He recommended a guy to go and see down in London called Ronan.
“I put it off and put it off but then Robert kind of forced me to go down and see him. He was getting frustrated at seeing me playing two games then missing one game. So I went down at the start of the season and I’ve been on and off the phone to him and flying down to see him every couple of months. I’ve got a good relationship and we speak all the time and he gives me stuff to do. The backroom team at Hibs have been great too. It’s been a lot of effort and it’s been worth it. I’m stronger and robust and I’m glad I listened to Snoddy at the start of the season.
“[Ronan] takes pride in the players he sees and he’s always texting me after games to see how I have got on. I owe everything to him and the backroom staff. I phoned him when the Scotland squad was announced and I was in it and he was delighted. I’ve been available for every game this season and that’s not happened for a long time for me.”
Close to being an ever-present on manager Neil Lennon’s teamsheet this term, McGeouch has made 35 appearances, with nine league games remaining, starting with tonight’s match in Perth against St Johnstone. He could also now feature for Scotland in the friendly matches against Costa Rica and Hungary.
Named in the international squad alongside his team-mate and flat-mate John McGinn, McGeouch says he could never have imagined such a scenario 12 months ago.
“It’s massive,” he said. “It would be a huge honour to play for my country but even just to get recognition by being named in the squad is great.
“Growing up as a young kid you dream of playing for your national team. But with the stop-start seasons I have had here I have never really put myself in that bracket, especially with the midfield we have had. But now I have had a consistent run of games and the team is doing well. And I think we are starting to see the rewards of the hard work.”
With Hibs chasing a top three or even a top two finish, he says a cap would be the icing on the cake, especially if he were to do enough to impress McLeish and be given the opportunity to ultimately help Scotland reach their first major finals since 1998.
“As a Scotland fan it’s just important we get there, and then, if I am part of it, great,” he said. “Everyone is rooting for us to get to a major tournament again. We know what it means to the fans and how big it would be and I would be honoured to be a part of it.
“I was too young to remember France 98, I was only five. But I spoke to Danny Swanson who said he can remember watching it and people still talk about the game against Brazil, the penalty, the result, everything.”
There has been little to crow about since but McGeouch knows how to handle disappointments. He has overcome many of his own.
“I think that you learn from setbacks,” he added. “You don’t want to be in that position again so you work tirelessly to make sure that doesn’t happen. I try to keep myself fit and it’s been great. I’ve come from a team like Celtic and people think it’s a downward step but I’ve kicked on and now played a consistent number of games. You can always use setbacks positively.”