Steve Clarke hopes to see John McGinn reach 100 caps for Scotland

Steve Clarke hopes to see John McGinn reach 100 caps for Scotland

Steve Clarke expressed his hope that vice-captain John McGinn can kick on and become a Scottish centurion as the “bubbly” Aston Villa midfielder prepares to earn his 50th cap this weekend.

The 27-year-old will again lead the team in the absence of the injured Andy Robertson in Saturday’s Nations League game at home to Ireland.

Manager Clarke is a big fan of the former St Mirren and Hibernian player, who has bagged 14 goals for Scotland since his debut against Denmark in March 2016.

“You just have to look at his contributions, his goalscoring record, his assists,” Clarke said. “He can play different midfield positions and he brings his own bubbly, bright personality to the group.

“He is a key member of the squad on and off the pitch. I think he likes it when I push him a little further forward and he has the chance to get those goals and provide those assists. It works well for us.

“I’m grateful to John for many of the good wins we’ve had because he’s managed to get the goals and the assists. Hopefully he can keep it going and get to 100 and get a few more goals and assists along the way.

Clarke believes McGinn’s growth as an international player is an example of Scotland’s improvement since taking charge in 2019.

“John was in a lot of Scotland teams and he tells me about the time he was asked to lead the line in one of the squads because he was surplus to requirements at the time,” the manager said.

“You have to understand it’s a process and John accepted that and waited for his chance. That’s what you want.

“When I first came in John’s age group of players didn’t have that many caps and I said over a period of time ‘you’ll pick up the caps and get more experienced and hopefully we’ll improve as a group’ and I think we’ve improved us a lot as a group.”

The Scots won 3-0 against Ukraine in midweek, less than four months after losing 3-1 to the same opponents in a World Cup final. Clarke hopes to see a similar turnaround this weekend against a Republic side that beat Scotland 3-0 in Dublin in June.

“We know only too well from our experiences in the summer how difficult the game is going to be and we have to be ready for everything Ireland throw at us,” said Clarke, whose side are top of Nations League Group B1 going into the two last. matches.

“We have to fight their strengths and make sure we play to our maximum and show our qualities. We showed an improved performance against Ukraine in midweek from what we did in the summer and the idea is to replicate that again.”

Clarke has added St Mirren centre-back Declan Gallagher and Verona left-back Josh Doig to his squad following the withdrawal due to injuries to Nathan Patterson and David Turnbull.

The manager plans to keep changes to a minimum for this weekend’s game after a “very good performance” in midweek, although he is open to the possibility of making “one or two” changes.

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