You are here

Scotland relying on joker McGinn to be Euros ace

By AFP - Jun 14,2024 - Last updated at Jun 14,2024

Scotland’s players attend their MD-1 training session at the team’s base camp in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Thursday, ahead of the UEFA Euro 2024 Football Championship (AFP photo)

MUNICH, Germany — John McGinn has already gone viral in Germany thanks to his attempt at Bavarian folk dancing and the Scotland midfielder is hoping to spoil the hosts’ party in Euro 2024’s opening game on Friday.

The 29-year-old’s larger than life personality is matched by his importance on the field to Steve Clarke’s men as one of the driving forces which has brought his nation back into the international limelight.

This is just Scotland’s second major tournament since 1998, with McGinn also crucial in the run to reaching Euro 2020.

However, after bowing out on home soil without a win three years ago, Scotland are determined to do more than make up the numbers this time around.

Clashes against Switzerland and Hungary after taking on the Germans would appear to offer an easier path to the four points Clarke is targeting to qualify for the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time.

But the estimated 150,000 travelling Scots making their way to Munich for the opening game are dreaming of shocking the three-time European champions in their own back yard.

If Scotland is to achieve arguably their greatest ever result in the Allianz Arena, McGinn is likely to be heavily involved.

All of his 18 international goals have come since Clarke took charge in 2019, making him by a distance the top scorer in the squad.

His goalscoring form at international level also helped turnaround his club career at Aston Villa.

McGinn admitted he thought his time at the Premier League club may have come to an end as he found himself out of the team towards to the end of Steven Gerrard’s tenure.

But he has been central to Unai Emery’s transformation of Villa over the past two seasons and will play Champions League football for the first time next season.

“He asked ‘what is your preferred position’, and I said ‘just not on the bench like the last few games’,” McGinn recalled of one of his first conversations with Emery.

“He brought up the Scotland goals and said ‘why are you scoring like this for Scotland and not for Aston Villa?’ Maybe thank you to Steve Clarke for putting me higher up the pitch.”

Clarke’s decision to push McGinn closer to goal was borne as much out of necessity as tactical ingenuity.

The lack of a goalscoring number nine has dogged Scotland for generations and Clarke has instead had to lean on a goal threat from midfield.

Manchester United’s Scott McTominay also ended the season in a more advanced role for his club after scoring seven goals in Euro 2024 qualifying, including both in a 2-0 win over Spain.

McGinn chipped in with three goals in qualifying and has grown into a leadership role off the pitch as well as the dressing room entertainer.

“He’s the life and soul of the boys,” said Scotland striker Lyndon Dykes, who has remained with the squad despite being ruled out of the tournament due to injury.

“He’s always got puns coming out left, right and centre. I think he must sit in his room and think about things he’s going to say the next day because I don’t know where he pulls them from.”

Behind McGinn’s jovial nature, though, is a steely determination to succeed that has characterised Scotland’s rise under Clarke.

Overlooked by Glasgow giants Celtic and Rangers, he made his name at St. Mirren and Hibernian before joining Villa while they were still in England’s second tier.

Having fought his way to the top with both club and country, the biggest game of his career now awaits on Friday and Germany are in McGinn’s sights.

up
163 users have voted.


Newsletter

Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.

PDF