There’s one thing John McGinn knows for sure; everyone knows his name. It’s why he was able to walk with purpose into the Scotland camp this week.
McGinn is in line to gain his second international cap against Italy in Malta tomorrow night after making a debut appearance against Denmark in March. He was already earning rave reviews then, hence his call-up by Gordon Strachan.
But now basking in the glory of being a Scottish Cup winner, who was hailed to the rooftops last Sunday as the open-top bus made its way through Edinburgh, he feels confident enough to mix with more established international stars this week. After all, none of them have so recently had their own signature song sung at them by tens of thousands of fans.
Even non-Hibs fans have been humming “We’ve got McGinn, Super John McGinn” to themselves, so pervasive has the supporters’ ditty become over the course of the last season.
The catchy refrain, which compared McGinn to Zinedine Zidane and is sung to the tune of Billy Ray Cyrus’ Achy Breaky Heart, echoed through the venerable streets of the east end of Edinburgh last weekend, when Hibs paraded the Scottish Cup after Saturday’s 3-2 win over Rangers.
“There was one point when there must have been around 80,000 people chanting my name,” said McGinn. “It was surreal and probably the best moment I’ve ever had in football.”
He replies with a firm, possibly slightly weary, “no” when asked if he really is better than Zidane. But he won’t feel out of place against the likes of Roma’s Daniele De Rossi and Thiago Motta of Paris St German, who he could come up against tomorrow. While memories of being treated like a returning hero are still so fresh, McGinn feels he can cope with such illustrious company. He is also sure he can overcome the understandable weariness after such a long season.
“I’ll be able to stick my chest out and know I’ve done something special,” he said. “Hopefully it can be a confidence booster going into the [Scotland] games. I must be nearing 60 games but I wouldn’t change that for the world. You want to play in big games. I’d rather have 58 games than two. I actually got cramp for the first time in a game on Saturday, so I was delighted it didn’t go to extra time.”
He is still reconciling himself to the thought of being a legend in Leith. A Celtic supporter as a boy, and who says he counted Henrik Larsson and current Hibs manager Alan Stubbs among his heroes, McGinn is slightly bemused to be the subject of a Hibs hymn of praise.
“I don’t sing along,” he said. “I get a bit embarrassed. There were plenty of players on that bus more deserving of a song than me. I was just delighted for people like Paul Hanlon, Lewis Stevenson and my big mate Darren McGregor, especially. They’re all Hibs supporters and I could see them getting quite emotional going down Leith Walk. That trophy was for them.”
An international call-up is the perfect way for McGinn to end what for him has been a breakthrough season. When he joined Hibs on freedom of contract last summer from St Mirren he did not expect it would lead to being serenaded in the aisles of Sainsbury’s.
“Having [my own] song is mad,” he said. “I get sent videos of it all the time.
“It’s one of the reasons you play football, to make people happy. I need to make the most of it. I had one sent to me of the singer Wagner doing it. The strangest one was in Sainsbury’s in Meadowbank.
“There was a woman and her grown-up daughter who just started belting it out. That was a strange moment. That was definitely embarrassing with the whole supermarket staring at me! I’ve not been back in since.
“My Mum gets a bit carried away too,” he added. “She beams with pride. She walked into the stadium on Sunday with my top on. I gave that and the medal to her in case I lost or ruined them.
“I did a ‘Klinsmann’ in the changing room afterwards, so I didn’t want to do them any damage! I looked out on to Leith Walk from the bus and I saw her there in my top. She doesn’t sing the song. She and my dad like to keep my feet on the ground.”
They have done a good job. Despite undoubted interest from elsewhere, McGinn is happy where he is, and is looking forward to helping Hibs finally secure promotion to the Premiership in the coming season. He has no regrets about choosing to come to Easter Road rather than follow up interest to sign for a Premiership club last summer.
“I’ve got three years left on my contract and this is a club going in the right direction,” he said. “Unless someone tells me otherwise I’ll be part of the club moving forward. We’re looking to build on this success.
“If we can get a tenth of the people who came out for the parade to come to games then it would make a massive difference to the club.
“We certainly wouldn’t have to wait another 114 years. It hasn’t done any of us any harm to play in the Championship, because we’ve played in big, high-pressure games all the time. I’m just delighted to be part of this club.”