John McGinn has discovered the perfect solution to another bout of draining transfer speculation; hitch a ride on a tour to the other side of the world and help make some Hibernian FC history in the process.
As is customary following the opening of a transfer window, the Hibs midfielder is the subject of intense discussion about his future. Celtic, Rangers, Brighton & Hove Albion, Leeds United and Sunderland are included in the clutch of clubs all credited with having designs on the midfielder.
He is happy to leave all this rattle behind as Scotland decamp to Mexico from Peru, where they lost 2-0 to their hosts earlier this week.
It’s a handily timed deflection from the growing rumblings about potential bids being submitted for his services. The trip has proved more than worthwhile for another, more specific reason. It hasn’t often been the case in modern times that three Hibs players have started the same Scotland match.
Whatever his future holds, however much the speculation continues to mount, there was no debating the club next to McGinn’s name on the team-sheet v Peru in the Estadio Nacional del Peru: Hibernian. And it was repeated twice more as Lima became little Leith for the evening.
By being picked along with Hibs team-mates Lewis Stevenson and Dylan McGeouch, who both made their international debuts against Peru, McGinn helped ensure it was the first time three Hibs players started the same Scotland match since Tommy Younger, Lawrie Reilly and Gordon Smith lined up ahead of a 1-1 draw against England at Hampden in 1956. Three Hibs players featured against the United States in a 1-1 draw in 2005 but Gary Caldwell and Scott Brown came on as substitutes, with only Garry O’Connor starting.
So it wasn’t history of the sort Peru, whose players were being waved off by their exultant fans before a first World Cup finals appearance since 1982, were celebrating. But it was worth noting and was remarked upon afterwards by McGinn.
“It was a special moment,” said McGinn. “I will always remember the match against Peru and I’m sure the boys are all the same. We all wanted a different result. You are professional so you want to win every game you play.
“But it was something different coming up against South American opposition and we will learn from it. It’s massive for the guys who won their first cap. They will kick on from here I am sure.”
Stevenson has already left the camp because of a pre-booked holiday so whatever happens in the Azteca stadium in the early hours of Sunday morning, a trio of Hibees won’t feature again. With McGinn and McGeouch both very possibly leaving Easter Road in the near future, it might be some time until it happens again.
On the subject of his future, McGinn himself could not be clearer: he is happy at Hibs and content to let the speculation bubble away on the other side of the ocean.
“I am glad to be on the other side of the world if I am honest,” said McGinn. “It’s been great.
“I am aware of what’s going on and what’s being said, I wake up each morning to different speculation each day. But that’s something I cannot control.”
He claims not to have been affected by the uncertainty. It’s undoubtedly easier to put the speculation to one side while operating in a different time zone. Further helping concentrate the mind is playing two of the finest sides in world football in their partisan backyards. McGinn’s next assignment is in the Azteca stadium. High altitude is among the challenges to be overcome along with the intense heat.
It’s one possible reason why he was withdrawn early against Peru. McGinn is a more established international player than either of his Hibs team-mates but was replaced just after the hour mark with former Hearts player Callum Paterson. McGeouch came off after 75 minutes for Graeme Shinnie while Stevenson completed the 90 minutes before, it emerged afterwards, heading for Florida.
“I want to play every minute of every game and I was eager to keep going against Peru,” said McGinn. “I was disappointed at coming off when I did but the manager makes these changes. No matter where it is or who it’s against, I will always be available for Scotland as long as I am fit.”
McGinn didn’t consider for a moment staying behind in Scotland to deal with such matters as where he will be playing next season. He is one Scotland star who relishes each and every call-up. He has been provided with insight into how it might feel should Scotland reach a major finals again. The Peru fans gave their side a farewell to remember. “I want to play for Scotland at a major tournament, that is the dream and the drive for me,” he said.
“We are really jealous of Peru and Mexico. You saw the send-off the Peru players got the other night. The atmosphere was incredible but that’s because it’s been a long time since they last qualified for a major finals.
“We are the same. I expect the atmosphere in Mexico will be double that what we came up against in Peru but we need to deal with it.
“These are games we won’t forget, especially if it lays the foundations for us getting to a major finals again.”