There can be no sense of an inferiority complex as Scotland take their place at the European Championships next month, according to Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn. The midfielder’s overhead kick against Austria in the opening game of Scotland’s World Cup qualification campaign back in March may well have summed up the burgeoning confidence of Steve Clarke’s squad.

Despite the quality of opposition now as they prepare in earnest for the start of the Euros, McGinn wants to see a little bit of gallusness as Scotland look to their first major tournament for 23 years. 

Scotland kick-off the campaign against the Czech Republic at Hampden before then facing off England at Wembley. There will be a few well-known faces in that line-up for McGinn but given his rise at Villa over the last three years, the 26-year-old is unfazed by the calibre of opposition.  

“They are exceptionally good players and they are arrogant in their own right on the pitch but not off it,” he said. “What they are really good at, though, is that they don’t really give a toss what people think whereas, for years, Scottish footballers have probably thought ‘I’m not doing this or that because people will think I’m big-time’ or ‘I’m not doing that on the park because someone will think this’.

“But, at the end of the day, nobody really cares about what is happening on the park as long as you are getting results. Even when I see Stuart Armstrong play, Billy Gilmour play, it’s nice to see that everyone down here is holding their own. That gap isn’t as big as they like to make out.

“I know I talk about this a lot but it does bug me because the gap isn't as big as people think. Don't get me wrong, it is an exceptional league and it’s not until you are on game 35 out of 38 that you realise how mentally tough and physically tough it is but I have yet to see a Scottish player come down to this league and properly fail the way some big name European players do.


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“We need to give ourselves more credit and big the Scottish league up more than we do because the talent is there. We just don’t have the arrogance to boost ourselves and I think it is about time we started showing that. This summer gives us the perfect platform to start doing that. 

“I think we are playing with a wee bit more swagger. Maybe not as much as we could play with but there is certainly a lot more confidence and a lot of younger players are coming through now who look the part so, hopefully, moving forward, we can make this a regular occurrence.” 

McGinn was still in infancy the last time Scotland were represented at a major tournament back in ’98. The privilege of being in the squad the night that particular ghost was exorcised gave rise to all sorts of celebrations with Ryan Christie’s post-match interview the emotional soundtrack to the two decades in the international wilderness.

“I have to be honest and say I was the drunkest man in Belgrade after that game!” laughed McGinn. “That night, Ryan’s interview summed it up, that was the way the whole squad felt. It was just incredible.

“I was lucky enough to go to all the games when I was younger and that interview was an outpouring of the sheer desperation. When Luka Jovic scored the equaliser it was like a dagger in the back and I thought, ‘oh no, here we go again, we have just joined the list of maybe men’. 

“But the proudest thing that whole night was how well we played. That made it feel special. It wasn’t just a penalty shoot-out victory, it was the way we went to celebrate after an enormous amount of pressure and having performed the way we did. Hopefully, that can give us the confidence.” 


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Scotland could have two Champions League winners in their ranks come that first game next month; Andy Robertson has already lifted the prestigious trophy and Billy Gilmour, called into the squad for the tournament, is preparing for Chelsea’s Champions League final tomorrow evening against Manchester City. 

Added to the mix is Scott McTominay who surely ousted any chat of a central defensive shift with the performance he produced on Wednesday night in the Europa League final against Villarreal. McGinn has excelled at Villa and Kieran Tierney’s trajectory has been so upward throughout the last season at Arsenal that the 23-year-old has already attracted talk of moving on again. 

That there is talent within the squad is irrefutable. Getting the best out of it has always been the challenge. 

“I think we will have to show our identity,” said McGinn. “We will have to show everything we’ve got. You look at the players, those playing down here or up the road, everyone has got their own style of play, their own identity and the thing this manager has brought to the team is the understanding that we need to show personality on the pitch.

“Before, we were trying too hard to play as a team and forgetting how good we are individually so it is important to give a nice balance. We are trying to get that now.”