Alex McLeish urges John McGinn to use Villa move as Scotland springboard

Scotland manager Alex McLeish has challenged John McGinn to use his Aston Villa move as a springboard to seize control of games at international level.

On Saturday the 23-year-old set up two goals in a 3-2 win over Wigan, making what Villa boss Steve Bruce described as a “terrific” debut after moving from Hibernian last week.

The former St Mirren midfielder, who was also wanted by Celtic, has nine Scotland caps and McLeish believes the move to the Sky Bet Championship can help take his international career to the next level.

“When players move from Scotland to England, they feel as if they are empowered,” said McLeish as he promoted Hampden ticket sales for next month’s friendly against Belgium and UEFA Nations League opener with Albania.

“That’s no disrespect to Scotland, but England is of a very high standard, certainly the Premier League. But the Championship is the fifth-best supported division in the world and that tells you about the financial power of that division.

“John is going to be playing against players that are probably a bit quicker than it is in Scotland, players that will be tougher physically, which I think might suit his game.

“John is a terrific player but I think he can be even more terrific.

“I’m hoping the move to Aston Villa makes him an even better player and he can try and make a name for himself as a number-one choice for Scotland.

“John has been on the radar for two or three years now, everyone has been talking about him.

“And now it’s time for him. If he is gracing the Hampden pitch, he has got to take games by the scruff of the neck, just as he’ll be asked to do for Aston Villa.”

McLeish stopped short of putting McGinn in the frame to be Scotland captain.

“The games he played against Mexico and Peru would have been a little bit of an eye-opener for him because of the strength of these guys, the speed of these guys, the core strength, the protection of the ball when he is going one against one,” the Scotland boss said.

“These would all have been learning curves for John McGinn, just as the English Championship will be a learning curve for him.

“He is learning every day and he is getting better and better but to be the captain of Scotland it will take a little bit more in terms of that I’m looking for. Not only John McGinn but other players as well.

“There’s two or three candidates and it may be that we have a wee committee or something like that with experience and players who will hopefully play for Scotland for a long time.”

Meanwhile, McLeish admitted John Souttar is in his thoughts for his next squad after seeing another Hearts defender, Christophe Berra, limp off with a hamstring injury against Celtic on the back of losing Aberdeen’s Scott McKenna to a similar problem.

“John Souttar was coming to South America with us,” McLeish said. “He didn’t make it because of injuries that were stopping him from being at his best towards the end of the season. That was very honest of John, I spoke to him personally, and he’s on the radar.

“There are a lot of players who are vying for centre-back positions now. A lot of lefties but John is one of the right-siders and we’re a bit short in that department. So John has had as good a chance as any player.”

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