After a remarkable Scotland performance at Hampden, the message from the captain and manager was in unison. “The summer hurt us badly,” John McGinn said, with Steve Clarke adding that “the players suffered more than anybody”.
Wednesday’s Nations League encounter with Ukraine was not just about leapfrogging the visitors at the top of Group B1. It was also about proving that this Scotland side is one that can bounce back. And, boy, did they manage that.
Three months on from an optimism-sapping World Cup play-off defeat, the Scots turned over the same opposition in stunning fashion at Hampden with a much-deserved 3-0 victory.
“Sometimes you need to respond in football,” Clarke told Premier Sports. “It’s nice that we’ve responded in this way.
“We did a lot of work in the short period we had, a lot of it very boring work in the lecture room, and they obviously took it all on board. They were excellent.”
When the Tartan Army belt out their ‘Super John McGinn’ anthem, there is of course an element of tongue-in-cheek when it comes to the line about the Aston Villa captain being ‘better than Zidane’ – even if some of them believe it.
What there is no doubt about, though, is the line that comes just before it – ‘he’s Stevie Clarke’s man’.
The former Hibernian and St Mirren midfielder is just one game away from half a century of caps. In the first of those 14 appearances under Gordon Strachan, Alex McLeish and Malky Mackay, McGinn failed to score or assist.