Chance meeting with Neil Lennon which saw Aston Villa steal McGinn from Celtic

John McGinn will pull on that famous claret and blue jersey for the 100th time on Friday night.

In less than three seasons, it’s now difficult to think of an Aston Villa side without him – certainly he will be one of the first names on Dean Smith’s team-sheet at Newcastle.

His influence on Smith’s Villa side, as it was for Steve Bruce, remains considerable.

His unbeaten century of appearances is yet another notable milestone for the Scot whose professional life has been on a relentless uptick ever since his move from Hibs just over three years ago.

A shot at the European Championships awaits for a man who has committed his long-term future to Villa Park after agreeing a new contract that lasts until 2025.

John McGinn was close to joining Celtic rather than Aston Villa until a late intervention

He is an integral part of Smith’s plans and has been at the centre of Villa’s engine-room since confirming his switch from north of the border.

But what remains shrouded in mystery – until now at least – is just how close McGinn came to never making his dream move after all.

Indeed, while his boss at the time at Easter Road, Neil Lennon, will be credited with assisting the midfielder’s career, just how much of an influence has not been revealed.

Turning back the clock to the summer of 2018, the then Villa boss Bruce needed some energy to pep up a squad that was vitally short of what he saw as a key ingredient necessary to make a successful promotion push.

McGinn has become an integral part of Aston Villa's success as he closes in on 100 appearances
McGinn has become an integral part of Aston Villa’s success as he closes in on 100 appearances

Villa’s domestic staff were split on the issue. Their chief scout in Scotland had sent the club’s boss over one dozen reports with a consistent verdict written across the top: ‘Sign him.’

Those responsible for overseas recruitment were similarly impressed.

However, others at the club were not convinced that McGinn possessed sufficient quality. With rumours circulating constantly that Celtic were poised to make a move, a split decision had been recorded – and a final one was needed.

It was at this stage that fate took a hand. Bruce bumped into Hibs’ boss Lennon. It is understood they may have been holidaying in Portugal that summer.

The Geordie needed a first-hand reference. And he received one – McGinn’s fate was sealed.

Bruce brought the midfielder down from Scotland, installed him at the Belfry Hotel, adjacent to Villa’s state-of-the-art training ground and sold the club to him.

Steve Bruce described John McGinn as his best-ever signing
Steve Bruce described John McGinn as his best-ever signing

McGinn later said that as he sat in the stands at Villa Park, despite the club still being in the Championship, something just felt right.

Villa has a long-standing link with Caledonia. The club’s forefather, William McGregor, hailed from north of the border. Des Bremner, formerly of Hibs too, was a member of the club’s European Cup winning side.

McGinn was later hailed by Bruce as being his ‘best-ever signing.’

Villa finished in the play-off final after McGinn’s first campaign, losing out to Fulham. They went one better 12 months later, beating Derby County.

McGinn’s progression, his tigerish nature, energy and wonderful left foot have endeared him fully to the Villa Park crowd.

They won Bruce over and, given the fact he has since signed a new long-term deal, has done likewise with Smith.

With the Cheltenham Festival only just around the corner, we are giving you the chance to sign up to our free updates ahead of one of the biggest weeks in racing.

Racing Digest will give you daily updates around all the big stories – including tips, offers, results and much more.To sign up, simply put your email into the box below, and we’ll do the rest. You’ll also receive plenty of tips and info outside of Cheltenham too… after all, the Grand National isn’t far away either.

So get signed up, join our club and get ready for the inside scoops on the greatest week in jumps racing.

Racing Digest – Sign Up

His contribution and influence have been considerable.

When he arrived at Villa Park, the club was still in the Championship. It now sits on the cusp of the top ten in the Premier League.

It could have been oh-so-different.

Lennon didn’t know he would be catapulted back into his job at Celtic Park, having taken over from Brendan Rodgers.

Had he done so, that conversation with Bruce could have turned out very differently.

As it is, McGinn is now part of the fixtures and fittings at Villa Park. And there are few in and around Birmingham who are sorry about that.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button