AS accomplished a player like Scott McTominay, comparing him to Robert Lewandowski – as McTominay himself would admit – is a bit of a stretch. But that doesn’t mean the Manchester United midfielder can’t look to emulate the Polish goalscoring icon in a way that can still benefit his game.
As someone who wholeheartedly believes that football is a sport that gives back what you put into it, McTominay can’t help but be hugely impressed with the work the 33-year-old Bayern Munich striker has done. strives to stay at the top of the game even this far in his career.
McTominay has his fingers crossed that he gets a closer look at Lewandowski in action at Hampden tonight, having only met him once before in a pre-season friendly in 2018.
And he hopes a similar work ethic and commitment to improvement can also help him maintain his position as a key member of the team for one of the biggest clubs in the world – and for his country – during many years to come.
“I’ve never played him properly before,” McTominay said. “I think it was pre-season against Bayern Munich away, Jose Mourinho was the manager.
“But obviously his goalscoring record speaks for itself. He is a phenomenal footballer. The way he takes care of his body is something I aspire to be when I get a little older.
“You get what you put into football. He obviously works extremely hard on his game and takes care of himself. He deserves all the credit and all the success in the world for that.
“That’s football, you always want to improve. Doing things in your free time trying to improve, watching every detail.
“As you get older you start to be wiser about your body and how you can adapt to certain situations in football and off the pitch as well.
“I just maintain what I did when I was 18, 19, gym work and analysis work, things that I’ve been very aware of over the years. It’s always benefited me and that’s what I will continue to do.
“Every year you want to improve more and more as a player and obviously as a person too, that helps.
“Now I’m gaining confidence and becoming more senior, you’d like to think in terms of football and playing for Scotland, you’re starting to have more influence on what happens.
“I feel like my opinions and the way I approach football are positive.”
The growing influence McTominay feels he can wield over the Scottish team has been helped, he says, by constant exposure to top talent like Lewandowski over the years.
So he urged his Scottish team-mates to learn from experience against a good side like Poland tonight, even if their star is given a break ahead of his country’s World Cup play-off semi-final against Sweden or the Czech Republic. Tuesday.
“Every time you play for Scotland you want to play against the best,” he said. “It’s the only way to know if you’re good or not. You don’t improve by playing against a player who is not of a good caliber.
“For us there will be boys who have never played against someone like Robert Lewandowski – myself included. It is important that we see him as a threat, but if he plays it means you need full focus and if he doesn’t, it’s full focus on someone else.
“It doesn’t matter if he’s a big name or if he’s just a youngster coming up. You give credit to everyone you play against – 100 per cent.
“Poland are a good team and we know them well enough to have seen them this week. They obviously have very good players and we know a few of them very well.
“Whichever team they take out – obviously it depends on what they want to do before their other game of the week – it will be a good test.
“But for us it will be about maintaining our invincibility.”
That streak currently stands at six matches, and Scotland are keen to see it last as long as possible, even though their own World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine has been placed firmly on the back burner.
Momentum is an oft-discussed term in football, but McTominay thinks it’s because it’s a vital commodity.
“It’s 100%,” he said.
“That’s football, to keep winning games. And we’ve been unbeaten for six now and that’s positive.
“Obviously it filters through the camp in terms of the manager and the way he conducted himself, the staff and the players.
“Everyone has bought into everything Steve Clarke has done since becoming manager. Everyone has fun, it’s a great camp to be at.
“Obviously for me it’s always a bonus to leave and try to help the team.”
It was an experience McTominay turned down in November, when illness struck during a training camp in Scotland ahead of their final two matches in their World Cup qualifying group against Moldova and Denmark.
The surveillance briefing is the one he doesn’t want to repeat.
“That week in Spain I was in my hotel room,” he said. “For four or five days I battled an illness that was pretty bad to be honest.
“I couldn’t get out of bed. When I managed to get home and watch the games, I hated it. “Even if I miss a game of club football or for Scotland against Denmark, it’s hard to watch. You just want the game to be over and we’ve won.
“You just want to start playing yourself again because there’s nothing worse. You feel like you’re in the wrong place sitting at home watching when all the boys are at Hampden. It’s so good to be back.
“I invited a couple of my family members and we said we were playing so well and we just had to keep it going through the second half. And we did. We kept it, we kept the intensity. “The level at which we were playing was really high. There weren’t many mistakes. Everyone was so tuned in to what we needed to do.