FOR a long time, the ascension of John McGinn as the natural successor to Scott Brown in the Celtic midfield seemed pre-ordained. Alas, a bumbling summer courtship ended with the 23-year-old opting to join Aston Villa instead of the club he had supported all of his days, and where his grandfather, Jack, had been chairman.
Their loss, according to his former St Mirren teammate and manager Gary Teale, is very much Aston Villa’s gain. And what may make the pain of losing out on Brown’s heir apparent all the starker for the Scottish champions is that he will prove to be the man to fill the former Scotland captain’s boots in the dark blue of his country over the next decade or more.
They may differ in playing style, but Teale sees the same leadership qualities in McGinn that have served Brown so well throughout his career, that same desire to grab a game by the scruff of the neck and drag his teammates with him.
And while Andy Robertson may well be the man in possession of the armband for the national side, Teale believes that McGinn will be the one driving Scotland on from the engine room.
“He’s definitely the sort that could take up that leadership mantle now that Scott Brown has retired,” said Teale.
“From playing with him as a teammate and then managing him for that short space of time, you could see what he was all about.
“He has certainly matured a hell of a lot since then in terms of his performances and what he does on the park, but he was always a leader and a winner.
“If things weren’t going his way at training or he wasn’t happy with certain things, then he was always trying to cajole the rest of his teammates on and trying to pick everybody up and lead by example.
“He’s certainly got it in his locker. He’s still a young boy, but I think he can get that personality over to the more experienced players in the team and show how good a leader he can be.”
Another of McGinn’s qualities in Teale’s book is his mental strength, something he had to rely upon after the first faltering steps in what had been a serene transition to international football up until the recent double-header against Belgium and Albania.
“John won’t be affected by those mistakes,” he said. “One of his great strengths is that he is mentally strong.
“He is always on the front foot, whether that be flying into tackles and winning the ball back or driving forward to get a shot at goal, he is a positive player.
“He will brush that off, because he knows it is part and parcel of football. It’s never nice when it happens to you, but you can’t dwell on it. It’s all about how you react to it, and John will take it in his stride. You could see by his overall performances that he didn’t let it affect him.”
As for Teale himself, his exit from St Mirren in early June 2015 still marks his last involvement in the professional game. He is proud of what he did in his short spell in charge of the club, despite not being able to save them from relegation having succeeded Tommy Craig in December, but is content to be out of the game for now.
“I’ve not even been to that many games,” he said. “You never say never. I finished my pro-licence at St Mirren, but in the short term, it’s not something I’m looking to get back into.
“I loved it at St Mirren, and when I look back on it and reflect on things like my win percentage compared to the managers that were there recently – in very difficult circumstances – it stacks up against anybody else.
“It was the right job at the wrong time. The season didn’t start off too well for us, and then with Kenny McLean absolutely flying you sell him to Aberdeen in the last day of the transfer window. He finished top scorer that season and he left in January.
“It was difficult dealing with the other side of things like the politics, but you can’t have any regrets, you can only look forward.”
*Gary Teale was speaking at the McDonald’s & Scottish FA Community Football Day in Dingwall. These football days have taken place across the UK this summer, giving thousands of children the chance to enjoy the beautiful game.
Source : HeraldScotland