“It was for work, dear.” “You were watching football.” “Yes, but this was Scotland. This was John McGinn. And - if my newspaper’s style book will permit, because the Tartan Army on Twitter can throw the term around without worrying about censorship - this was John McGinn’s arse.”
Let’s be clear: no one was throwing John McGinn’s arse around in Chisinau on Friday night, least of all John McGinn. It was solid. It was the immovable object. It was - and I’ve Googled this, too - “a taich-ai”, the starting position in sumo wrestling.
For the breakthrough against Moldova, one wag tweeted: “Goal - Nathan Patterson; assist - John McGinn’s concrete arse.” That got me thinking: what if that rear-end was to be carved out of something more substantial? Stone, or even marble or onyx? And who in the statuary firmament has the most celebrated bahookie?
John McGinn’s arse didn’t win the game by itself to propel Scotland into the World Cup playoffs but its contribution cannot be underestimated and I seriously hope it’s insured. Best backside (male) on that pitch and no question. It was better than our corners, better than our shots from outside the box, better than anything Che Adams did with his left foot - and Stuart Armstrong with his.
If George Best’s dribbling used to leave defenders with twisted blood then McGinn, by tensing those muscles in his buttocks, sends opponents bouncing off him like he’s a human gyroscope. Either that or they’re inattentive parents trying to rescue their kids from a playground roundabout.
Right from the start the midfielder was holding up the ball, luring in a Moldovan, then swiveling through 180 degrees to leave the would-be grappler sat on the turf on his far-less influential arse. TV summariser Ally McCoist likened McGinn’s utilising of the gluteus maximus to Kenny Dalglish’s finest work.
Now, Super Ally in hosanna-ing Super John’s bottom could have referenced fellow Rangers legend John Greig. The latter’s bum was so formidable that by the end of his career when he was slowing down, or slowing down further, it caused him to have a Max Wall-type stoop. But, even then, try as they might, the opposition could not get the ball off him. One nudge of the hips and he would send a poor sap flying - off the pitch, over the track, and onto the roof of one of the disabled cars that used to ring Ibrox.
But Greig’s arse rarely turned up in the other team's box - that wasn’t its raison d’etre. Whereas Dalglish scored many stunning goals for Liverpool by dint of his - and an absolute cracker for Scotland.
Against Belgium in a Euros qualifier in 1982 Graeme Souness popped a sly ball to him on the edge of the box but with little apparent danger for the home side. Then it was as if Dalglish was aboard a dodgem and he'd performed a handbrake turn - I know dodgems don’t have handbrakes but bear with me - to bounce his challenger right off the rink and straight into the Merry Mixers.
“A goal to remember!” roared commentator Jock Brown when King Kenny’s left-foot shot hit the net. “If anyone cares to question his performances in a Scotland jersey they need to see this. Absolutely magnificent and perhaps the only player in Britain who could have done it.”
Unfortunately Dalglish’s arse-play was in vain. Maybe, though. that was the greatest-ever goal scored by a losing Scotland team. McGinn didn’t score on Friday but the two mighty meatballs that form his hindquarters were crucial.
I’m very familiar with this arse and have known for some time what it can do. From its Hibernian debut at Dumbarton in the Championship I have followed its unstoppable progress as McGinn has bagetelled just about everyone who’s stood in his way.
The first time his secret weapon was noticed by the wider world was in the 2016 League Cup semi-final against St Johnstone, back when the Hibees weren’t spooked by them, when he wiggled his derriere seductively on the halfway line and attracted the curious among the Perth team, only to race away and bang home the winner. That was also the first time the song acclaiming him “better than Zidane” was debuted.
Ask any Hibs fan when they thought there might be a chance of finally ending their Scottish Cup hoodoo a few months later and rather than Anthony Stokes’ third-minute opener, they’ll choose the moment in the lead-up to the goal seconds before when McGinn escaped with the ball from a three-man Rangers ambush with the help of his you-know-what.
On Friday the Tartan Army were homo-erotic in their praise: “The best arse in football! … The strongest arse in the world! … Some of that arse-play has been nothing short of sensational!” One fan reckoned the McGinn rump was deserving of its own OnlyFans site. As iconic as Kim Kardashian’s declared another, while Scotland’s Argentina-esque away strip inspired comparison with Juan Roman Riquelme.
I cannot speak to Riquelme’s arse and its influence, though he did much of his work, terrific as it was, from a standing position. McGinn is perpetual motion and this latest all-action, maximum-booty showing must have thrilled his new club manager Steven Gerrard.
In art, the beam-end has inspired the boy Da Vinci and Hieronymous Bosch but the most famous chiselled bottom belongs to Michelangelo’s David. I’m sure the subject was a decent fellow but how can he compare to the Hibs captain David Gray who finished with his head what McGinn had started with his incomparable, indomitable - probably the last time I’ll be allowed to use the term - arse?