Some people talk a good game but John McGinn prefers to let his football speak for itself.
A player with a pretty decent track record against this evening’s Scottish Cup opponents, the midfielder is coy about discussing statistics tarnished by just one defeat in nine head to heads with Hearts, despite facing them while playing for lower-ranked sides.
With St Mirren, he lost just one league game to them, back in early 2014, while down to ten men, but, otherwise, has savoured four wins, including the League Cup final with the Paisley side and last season’s Scottish Cup derby with Hibernian, and four draws, giving him a decent return for his endeavour against the Gorgie side.
But, while he obviously relishes it and it has been the talk of the dressing room, with team-mates openly envious of his form against Hibs’ Edinburgh foes, with another crucial meeting to contend with, McGinn doesn’t want to tempt fate.
“I’m not jinxing it,” he said as he eyed up the replay of a terrible tie that could be described as tousy at best. “I think they might have beaten me once when I was at St Mirren but I’m not saying any more. Nah, I don’t want to jinx it.”
The match comes just days after the Hibernian players had been verbally eviscerated by their manager, Neil Lennon, unhappy that his players have allowed standards to slip in recent weeks as they attempt to wrap up the Championship title and promotion.
McGinn considers it the kick up the backside the squad, perhaps, needed, after dropping points against Ayr United and then Raith Rovers. The former preceded the first shot at finding a way past Hearts and into the quarter-finals of the nation’s premier knock-out contest. While the derby was far from a classic, the Leith side matched their Premiership rivals. But they failed to come up with the same level of performance in Kirkcaldy at the weekend, suggesting to Lennon that the players appear to be picking and choosing which games they are lifting themselves for.
Revealing that the roasting the players received in private as even more ferocious than the lambasting they were subjected to when the gaffer addressed the media, McGinn believes the manager was right to remind the squad of the quality and consistency needed to fulfil ambitions but he claimed that it was unfair to accuse players of consciously approaching certain games with a mindset.
“It’s important to give the players a kick up the backside when it’s needed and I think on Saturday it was definitely needed. I don’t think it was a ploy. It was just a reminder that, if you want to win trophies, like the manager has done in his career, you can’t just switch it on and off. You’ve got to be at it every week. I think that was the point he was making to us and it’s one we’ll take on board.
“But not one player in there will wake up on a Saturday morning and think: ‘I am not going to try today because it is not an Edinburgh derby’. Certain occasions are different but we treated Raith Rovers with a lot of respect, maybe too much at a certain stage, and we weren’t attacking as much as we normally do.
“Their game plan worked more than ours did and we weren’t at our best. I think that was it more than we weren’t trying or anything like that.
“We’ll always give 110 per cent, it just might not look as if we are at it as much. In an Edinburgh derby, it’s more ferocious from the start and it’s maybe more evident.”
The match tonight affords the cup holders the perfect opportunity to earn a way back into their gaffer’s good books but, for McGinn, it is also a chance for those involved in last weekend’s Tynecastle horror show to redeem themselves in the eyes of the football public.
Describing that tussle as “a boxing fight with no winner”, few would argue with him. “ It was terrible! It really was. It was a bad game, I think everyone knew that. People have said it was the worst Edinburgh derby in years and I would agree with them. We have the chance to improve on that now, though, and I think both teams were thankful that it was a draw and we can now go and show that we are not boring teams and that we can put on a good show, like we did last year. Hopefully, this one will be easy on the eye and we get the win again.”
Last season the replay at Easter Road ended with a home victory which the fans greeted with a rendition of Sunshine on Leith and burgeoning optimism that would ultimately, finally, be rewarded at Hampden, in May. It was a night the Scotland star says he will not forget in a hurry and one he would love to replicate.
“That could be the motivation for us because it was exceptional and the noise that the fans created, even in the first tie they were singing non-stop from the first minute to the last, so that backing could be important and could work in our favour.
“It’s one of the main reasons that I came to Hibs, to play in big games like this, in front of 20,000 people, at Easter Road, and be able to show what I can do.
“I happened to do that last season and it is important this year that I go out and do the same thing. It is a great occasion. The games are a lot bigger than I thought they would be when I signed for Hibs and the bragging rights are just as important through here as they are in the west. It is great to be involved in them and hopefully the bragging rights stay with us this season.”