John McGinn talks about family connections in Hungary
On Tuesday night, Scotland will play in Hungary for the first time since 1980.
Despite the country being perhaps unfamiliar with most of the squad members, John McGinn has a family connection with Hungary.
The Hibernian midfielder made his debut for Scotland two years ago against Denmark and is now flourishing.
A talisman at Easter Road, the 23 year-old is also featuring regularly at international level and hoping to add to his six caps at the Groupama Stadium.
John, tell us about what you know about Hungarian football and your experiences of visiting the country.
I know quite a bit about Hungarian football as my Uncle lives over there and my two little cousins are half Hungarian. I’ve been across a couple of times so I know the country quite well.
I love Budapest. I’ve only been once but it’s one of the best cities in Europe and all of the team have been looking forward to going but we’ll not be able to explore as we’ll be too focused on the game.
I have positive memories of playing in Hungary, having won 2-1 with the under-21s in 2015.
What memories do you have from the under-21s friendly?
That was the first time I was captain of Scotland Under-21s so it was a brilliant feeling. Gary Caldwell and Danny Lennon took the team that day. It was a relatively new squad and Ryan Fraser was playing for us. We scored two late goals to win the game and it was a really good trip. Thankfully it was one that sparked a half decent campaign as well.
Being captain was something that was unexpected and I received a bit of a slagging from the rest of the boys but once all of that has passed, I felt I did well in the role. It’s definitely something I can look back on and be proud of.
What are you expectations from the game against Hungary?
Having played in the Euros we’re very wary that they have threats all over the pitch. Much like ourselves they’ll be wanting to prepare for the Nations League so I think it’ll be a tricky game for us.
I think the battle will be won in midfield as they have good players and so do we. We’ll need to roll our sleeves up and be ready for the fight. I know it’s a friendly but we certainly won’t be treating it like that and neither will Hungary.
Everyone remembers your performance against Denmark on your debut, but that wasn’t the first time you had pulled on the dark blue jersey and graced the Hampden Park turf was it?
My Uncle George is the Facilities and Maintenance Manager at Hampden and for my wee cousin Scott’s birthday, he was able to arrange a game of ‘Cuppy’ up at Hampden.
That was a class experience and definitely a birthday party I’ll never forget.
I was maybe about nine years old and to have the nets up, my name on the scoreboard and the floodlights on, was just unbelievable.
We were all certainly the talk of the class the next day at school.
How can you sum up the last two years, since you made your debut?
Continually being involved at international level has brought my game on massively and Hibernian have been on the up in the last few years as well.
Being involved in the Scottish Cup win and being promoted was massive and this season it’s been all about securing a European spot.
We’re getting big crowds consistently and playing in big games which has been great for me.
What did you make of Alex McLeish’s appointment?
He’s done well for Scotland before and brought in a great coaching staff so I’m looking forward to working with him and hopefully he can bring success to the nation.
Peter Grant has coached at the top level and James McFadden is a player everyone in the squad respects as he’s done it all and scored some massive goals.
It’s a good mix which I think will really help us.