Steve Clarke has expressed hope that Vice-captain John McGinn can take off and become a Scottish centurion as the “bubbly” Aston Villa midfielder prepares to earn his 50th appearance this weekend.
The 27-year-old will be skippered again in the absence of the injured Andy Robertson in Saturday’s Nations League game at home against the Republic of Ireland.
Manager Clarke is a huge fan of the former St Mirren and Hibernian player, who has scored 14 goals for Scotland since making his debut against Denmark in March 2016.
“You just have to look at his contributions, his scoring record, his assists,” Clarke said. He can hold various midfield positions and brings his sparkling and brilliant personality to the group.
“He is a key member of the team on and off the pitch. I think he likes it when I push him a little further and he has a chance to take those goals and make those assists. He works well for us.
“I am indebted to John for many of the good victories we have achieved because he managed to get the goals and assists. Let’s hope he can continue like this and get to 100 and get some more goals and assists along the way.
Clarke believes McGinn’s growth as an international player represents Scotland’s improvement since taking over in 2019.
“John was on many Scottish teams and he tells me about when he was asked to run in line in one of the teams because he was in excess of the requirements at the time,” the manager said.
“You have to understand that there is a trial and John accepted it and waited for his chance. This is what you want.
“When I first joined, John’s age range of players didn’t have a lot of appearances and I said over a period of time you will ‘collect appearances and become more experienced and hopefully improve as a group’ and I think we have improved. a lot as a group “.
The Scots won 3-0 against Ukraine in midweek less than four months after a 3-1 defeat by the same opponents in a World Cup play-off. Clarke is hoping to see a similar turn this weekend against a Republic side that beat Scotland 3-0 in Dublin in June.
“We know all too well from our summer experiences how difficult the match will be and we need to be prepared for whatever Ireland has in store for us,” said Clarke, whose team leads the Nations League Group B1 in the last two. matches.
“We have to fight their strengths and make sure we play our best and show our qualities. We showed better performance against Ukraine in the middle of the week than we did in the summer and the idea is to do it again. “
Clarke has added St Mirren center-back Declan Gallagher and Verona left-back Josh Doig to his squad following the injury retirement of Nathan Patterson and David Turnbull.
The manager plans to minimize the changes for this weekend’s game after a “strong performance” in the middle of the week, although he is open to making “one or two” changes.