2011-15 St Mirren|
2015-18 Hibernian |
2018- Aston Villa, £2,79m, 111 (13) |
AT A GLANCE
Tuesday, 18 October 1994
Wednesday, 8 August 2018
Steve Bruce |
Dean Smith |
First Squad Appearance
Saturday, 11 August 2018
Saturday, 11 August 2018
Saturday, 22 September 2018
Final Squad Appearance
(5 ft 8 in) 1.78 m
2018-19 Play Off Final Winners |
2019-20 League Cup Runners Up |
Player #924 for Aston Villa, John McGinn, has played as a midfielder for the club since 2018-19.
A legend within about 10 minutes of his Villa debut, John was born in Glasgow on 18 October 1994.
Steve Bruce had signed John for Villa from Hibernian FC on 8 August 2018 for a fee of £2,790,000.
McGinn made his debut appearance for Villa at the age of 23 on Saturday, 11 August 2018 in the 3-2 Championship win over Wigan Athletic and was an immediate revelation, a one man midfield dynamo and the beating heart of the Villa system that blossomed under Dean Smith.
McGinn went on to make 44 appearances in his debut season and scored 7 goals whilst providing 8 assists and scored the winning goal in the 2019 Championship Play Off final that secured Villa’s return to the top flight after a 3 year absence.
Such was Super John McGinn’s impact on the team, club and season that he was an immediate cult hero for the Villa faithful who eagerly anticipated his promise ahead of the 2019-20 Premier League season.
McGinn scored Villa’s first goal on their return to the Premier League and was a virtual ever present until a broken ankle suffered in the home defeat to Southampton on Saturday, 21 December 2019 ruled him out until the Premier League returned in July 2020.
By that time Villa had appeared in their ninth League Cup final and become mired in a relegation battle, sadly John couldn’t regain his form to its influential best despite his best efforts to drive the team to safety. The team however ultimately did enough - to which McGinn played his part - however there is little doubt that a fully fit John McGinn throughout the season would have kept Villa well above the relegation places.
The relative difficulties he experienced in 2019-20 meant McGinn had unfinished business with the Premier League and he started the season at his imperious best, instrumental in some fabulous team performances including thrashing reigning champions Liverpool 7-2, beating Arsenal 3-0 away from home and forming a quite exceptional midfield triumvirate with Jack Grealish and newcomer Ross Barkley.
As Dean Smith described “He [John McGinn] is a wonderful character in the dressing room, he had a serious injury last year - the fractured ankle [against] Southampton in December - and didn’t come back until June. In Project Restart he was playing catch up and now he is back to his best.
“He’s an old fashioned midfielder, he’s box to box, he sticks his backside in, loves a tackle and on top of that he is a wonderful character.”
A Villa great with so much more to come. John signed a 5-year extension to his contract on the eve of the win over Wolves on 12 December 2020 and by the end of 2020 a John McGinn equipped Villa were sitting pretty in 5th place in the Premier League compared to the John McGinn-less Villa of December 2019 who had sat in 18th place.
McGinn proved to be one of those rare players who truly ‘got’ Aston Villa “If you’re not scoring and if you’re not attacking, then you’ll get reminded of that by the Villa fans.”
“We all like it here. It’s what made signing the new contract so easy. I love playing for this club.”
“It was daunting coming down here at first. There wasn’t much expectation on me but I was very keen to impress early on.”
And impress he did from the very first minute on and off the pitch:
“Every club needs a Scotsman because we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
“Look at Robbo (Andy Robertson) at Liverpool, he’s always amongst the jokes. The foreign lads don’t know what I’m on about most of the time, but it’s hard for them because they miss their families right now so they need cheering up every now and then. That’s what I’m here for.”
But training is a different matter:
“I don’t know what it is… I just find it really hard to replicate a Saturday performance on the training park.”
“It’s definitely more important to be able to do it in a match. I love football, I love watching football, I love playing football, I just hate training!
“The gaffer will tell you that I hate it as well. Even though I feel I can run around all day, I hate just running around a pitch. I’ve tried to change it, but I can’t.”
Yet not everything has been plain sailing in McGinn’s Villa career despite the hugely positive trajectory the club had taken since he arrived. Fighting relegation from the Premier League in 2019-20, McGinn recalled:
“If you ask the manager, he will say it was the work that we did on the training pitch, but I thought it was the team-bonding at the Belfry.”
But despite the customary jesting McGinn lauds the influence on Villa boss Dean Smith and his team:
“Like the players, they’re on top of their game right now, but I just think the mini-gathering (during Project Restart) when we all got to know each other a bit better helped us really click.”
Dean Smith, innovative, flexible and fleet of thinking has a meeting of minds with McGinn - a player capable of playing multiple roles, often in the same game. Indeed when Villa come up against tougher opponents, McGinn is asked to sit in deep alongside Douglas Luiz, yet where they are opportunities to attack against struggling sides, he is given greater creative licence.
“The manager likes to change every now and then and he knows I’m flexible in doing that. He trusts me as a 6 or an 8. I can show both sides of my game and I don’t have a preference as long as the team is doing well and winning.”
“It is much nicer than the opinions we were getting on Match of the Day last season. Everyone has been speaking very highly of us and that’s for a reason. The lads have been immense and the big thing for me is that players with ambition are no longer seeing Aston Villa as a step down anymore.”
“It’s a pleasure to play in this team. Everyone is fighting for a jersey and fighting for every ball. Training is all based on us being successful so we can’t change from that. I know that we will carry it on because the minute you take your foot off the gas, in a league of this quality, you do get found out.”
“If we keep playing the way we are and fighting for every ball like we are, then Villa Park is going to be an incredible place to be when supporters are allowed back in. The Villa fans appreciate that we’re all just normal guys who are loving our jobs at the moment. The minute we get away from that is when we get told.
“Isolating recently made us realise how tough it has been for most of the country. Reality kicked in that we’ve been lucky to be able to do what we love.
“During that period, the easiest days for me were when the football was on. Hopefully we can now put a smile on the country’s face by playing football again. We’re certainly trying.”
Dean Smith often played McGinn as a deeper midfielder and during the 2020-21 McGinn saw on loanRoss Barkley, new boy Morgan Sanson and young Jacob Ramsey being used as Villa's most progressive midfielder in support of Ollie Watkins, which didn't really work.
For his part McGinn said about not being the furthest forward midfielder given his excellence in the role ”I don't really mind to be honest. I've had the same conversation with the manager at Aston Villa. He knows I'm not fussed as long as I'm playing in the team. I'm happy as long as I can contribute. I feel as if I can play both. It's up to the gaffer to decide where I play. I'm happy to play anywhere."
Whilst fans clamoured for his presence further forward, McGinn’s balanced response could probably be traced back to his experiences earlier in his career.
Just 3 years before joining Villa McGinn had left St Mirren effectively unemployed with the club demanding a compensation fee of more than £250,000 and few suitors available in that price bracket. Such was the dilemma that the talented and tenacious McGinn faced that he even considered - and very nearly completed - a wasteful move to MLS side Houston Dynamo, the league where football careers go to die.
“It was a difficult one I was out of contract but St Mirren were due training compensation and rightly so but, at that point, it was £250,000-plus because I had been there since I was seven years of age. So, at that point, it came to the stage where both parties agreed it was best I moved on for a number of reasons but no-one would pay the compensation fee. At that point, you’re thinking, ‘Ah! What do I do?’.
“You’re then hoping St Mirren agree something cheaper which wasn’t something they were keen to do. I then tried something different and went over to America where I could have went for free to Houston Dynamo.
“It would have been a massive step for me at the time because I was still young. But I agreed to sign and agreed the contract but red tape stopped it. I don’t know if that was a sign… But, at that point, if you would have told me I would have been a Premier League player at Aston Villa it would have been surreal.
“It’s been an amazing journey and one I don’t want to stop here.”
“In Scottish football there was doubt over whether I could still cut it in that league so, coming down to Aston Villa, it was a fresh sort of, ‘Let’s go and show English football what I can do…’
“My Dad’s not very vocal. He’s not someone who gives me ridiculous amounts of advice but, before the Wigan game, he said, ‘Right, go and show them what you can do!’. I remember that and after five minutes I charged down a hopeless ball and the place erupted. I just knew right then that this would be the fit for me. I certainly miss that roar, I miss the supporters and it’s certainly easier to play in front of a full Villa Park with circumstances preventing that at the moment.”
McGinn signed a new five-year contract with Villa in December 2020 and said “I feel at home here. It’s amazing… You’d be lying if you said you didn’t have ambitions of carrying on your journey and to go and play in Europe, to play in the Champions League… And it’s amazing to know that the club shares the same ambition.
“We come into training and there’s so much construction work getting done; wanting to improve all of the time; improving the squad all of the time and, as a player, you want nothing else. Long may the progression continue and that’s what it is at the moment.
“You just want to be happy on and off the park. I’m lucky to call this home now and I really enjoy it; love it. It’s a brilliant place to live, train and work at. Amazing facilities; a massive club that’s going one way. There’s a slow and steady progression which I’m really proud to be part of.
“When the club came to me to say we want to extend your stay here I couldn’t really imagine myself playing anywhere else.”
On the subject of his 100th appearance, McGinn recalled
“It wasn’t one to remember; rubbish game (vs Newcastle), rubbish result in terms of the position we’re in but, looking back, I had the weekend to reflect on it and it was a massively proud moment in my career.
“It’s not often in your career that you get the time to look and appreciate how far you’ve come. For me, it was only three or four years after where I spent four months unemployed.
“I was out of contract after being at St Mirren and I’ve come a long, long way and, hopefully, I can carry on in that trajectory.
“It’s the first time I’ve looked at a milestone in my career and thought, ‘Wow! That’s massive for me. It’s given me more hunger to keep getting better for Aston Villa.”
On and off the pitch McGinn struck up a strong bond with fellow midfielder Jack Grealish and paid tribute to his team-mate saying:
“It’s been brilliant just to watch him. Me and him are big mates off the park; same interests, same everything, with exception of he’s going to be a model when he finishes and I’m not.
“Even when I first played with him everyone could see the ability and potential he had… To see him grow and blossom into one of Europe’s best attacking midfielders.”
McGinn’s relationship with Villa boss Dean Smith plays a big part in the mutual appreciation too:
“I’ve got a great relationship with him. Last season he went through the most difficult spell he could have had with losing his Dad. We were so determined for him, being a Villa supporter, to keep this club up. He’s very good at balancing being a good guy and being a good manager.”
McGinn’s engagement with the claret and blue faithful simply increased his bond and legend and his wicked wit could often sum up the feelings of the Villa fans with an unerring accuracy.
“It’s Aston Villa, we always have to do it the hard way”
14 May 2019
After needing penalties to beat West Bromwich Albion in the Championship Play off Semi Final
“I’ll be brutally honest, it hurt to see Leicester and Wolves flying the flag so brilliantly for the Midlands. It makes me jealous to see them competing at such a high level, home and abroad. They are already where we want to be. They have worked hard and are there on merit. However, they don’t have the same history as Aston Villa so it does make you envious — because we want to be competing in the Champions League.”
20 August 2020
Back on the pitch, McGinn playing in a more advanced position with Douglas Luiz and Marvelous Nakamba the deeper midfielders created the goal for Ollie Watkins to open the scoring against Liverpool at Anfield and left no-one in doubt that his effectiveness at the front of the midfield was undimmed.