Niall McGinn last night hailed the Northern Ireland fans for the support he has received during his international career.
And the Celtic winger wants to give them more to cheer about at Windsor Park in Saturday night’s friendly against Serbia.
Neil Lennon’s international career began to unravel after he signed for Celtic in January 2001, as he was, first, jeered by a section of the Northern Ireland support before being faced with a death threat - but McGinn’s experience is in total contrast.
“The fans have been brilliant towards me,” said McGinn.
“There hasn’t been a single problem for me to do with playing for Celtic.
“They have always been 100 per cent behind me and for someone like me who is just at the start of their international career, that’s a big help.
“They’ve cheered me in every home game and against the Czech Republic in Prague last month I could hear them getting louder every time I got the ball and that pushed me on.
“I hope they give me that again against Serbia on Saturday night.”
A year ago Nigel Worthington caused a shock by calling the winger into the Northern Ireland squad for the first time, just 10 months after leaving Dungannon Swifts for Derry City.
Since making his debut as a substitute against Hungary, McGinn’s career has been on an upward spiral at an unbelievable rate.
Just a matter of weeks later he was whisked off to Celtic and although he didn’t progress as quickly as he might have liked last season, it’s been a different story in the current campaign.
McGinn has worked his way into the Hoops first-team squad, was handed a first start a few days after coming off the bench in Northern Ireland’s defeat to Slovakia and has been thrust into European action as well as domestic competition.
And just a couple of weeks ago the 22-year-old was celebrating after netting his first goal for the club.
As a boyhood Celtic fan McGinn is very much living the dream and although things are going very well, he wants life to get even better when Northern Ireland face Serbia at Windsor Park on Saturday evening.
McGinn was handed his first international start against the Czech Republic last month and justified Worthington’s decision to throw him in by producing a highly effective performance, which had the Czech defence in disarray.
Now he has one more achievement in mind before ending what has been a remarkable year for the Donaghmore man.
“Everything has been on the up for me and I hope it continues that well,” said McGinn.
“It was some feeling getting my first goal for Celtic and the fact that it was the first time my parents had been over to see me play for the club made it even more special.
“It’s been an unbelievable year since I made my Northern Ireland debut against Hungary last November, I have five caps now, I started last month and I was pleased with how I played.
“Hopefully I’ve done enough to keep my place in the team for the match against Serbia on Saturday night.
“If I start I’ll be wanting to put in another good performance and hopefully my first goal for Northern Ireland will come along sooner rather than later.”
Even though he became an international and got his big move to Celtic last year, there were still some lingering question marks over whether there was an end product to go with McGinn’s blistering pace.
Those doubts are gradually being erased though as more and more first-team experience and the fact that Celtic manager Tony Mowbray has sent him on in big games in an attempt to spark his team proves the manager’s belief in him.
And not only has McGinn improved since moving to Parkhead, he is a better player than he was just a couple of months ago.
“Things are going well for me football wise and off the pitch and confidence helps a lot,” said McGinn.
“I want to keep learning and keep improving and I am definitely a better player than I was at the start of the season. Being in the international squad as well helps me learn from better players who have Premier League experience in England.
“I’ve been working on one-on-one situations with defenders, crossing and shooting in training, but I don’t think you should ever stop trying to improve. I’ve got to keep working to become more of a regular at Celtic and then keep my place in the international team.”
There is a chance that Northern Ireland could have two Celtic players in the line-up to face the World Cup-bound Serbians.
Paddy McCourt has been making an impression at Parkhead of late and with twice as many substitutes to be used in a friendly than a competitive game, he is sure to see some action.
And that will mean entertainment for the fans, according to McGinn.
“Paddy is one of the best players that I have worked with. He’s a special talent,” he said.
“He’s doing really well and although he didn’t get on in Prague it would be good to see him get a chance on Saturday night.
“Although we are both wingers he’s a different style to me.
“He’s not that quick, but he is quick with the ball and keeps it so close to his feet when he’s running.
“He deserves a chance and he won’t let anyone down.”