Hibs' John McGinn shows what tranfer window fuss was about
Neil Lennon, so often tough on his talismanic midfielder when he feels the player has let his standards drop, described the performance as “different class” in the wake of the 1-1 draw at McDiarmid Park.
Despite playing with a one-man disadvantage in the centre due to their 4-4-1-1 formation against St Johnstone’s 4-5-1, McGinn and midfield partner Marvin Bartley dominated the area, with the visitors racking up 63 per cent possession over the 90 minutes.
If it wasn’t for an odd propensity to concede the first goal – which Hibs have done in all five league games so far – they probably would have left Perth with all three points. Instead, they had to be content with a draw after Paul Paton’s own goal cancelled out Michael O’Halloran’s opener.
Both goals came within 15 frenetic minutes at the beginning of the second half in a game that was otherwise a rather tense affair.
McGinn is often at his best when the match gets a little chaotic, where his enthusiasm for driving forward with the football is at its most influential. Though denied of many of those moments on Saturday, he showed maturity to stick to his task and thus earned the praise from his notoriously demanding manager.
“It’s always nice to hear. I would have been happier with the win. I was pleased with my personal performance but it was disappointing not to get the three points after playing really well,” said McGinn. “If anyone was looking at the game you’d probably say we deserved to win. But, like at Dundee, we need to start taking our chances and turn our possession into goals.”
It’s now a case of getting back to normality for the 22-year-old after a whirlwind few days the previous week. Transfer deadline day can be strange enough for a footballer unsure of where he’ll be calling home the following day, but McGinn had the added complexity of being away in Lithuania on Scotland duty while rumours circulated about his future.
Two bids from Nottingham Forest were rejected in the lead up to 31 August, and, though a third offer was expected, it never arrived and McGinn remained in green and white.
Though many of his international team-mates have endured similar uncertainty at various points in their career, there was little chance of young McGinn finding sympathy in a football changing room – or indeed from his friends back home.
“People were telling me all sorts. Someone had me down for signing for Rangers on deadline day. I think I was at Hearts for a medical,” he said in jest. “There’s all sorts of nonsense going on and you’re subject to the jokes from the Scotland boys.
“There’s always been a lot of talk. I’ve dealt with it fine. It was always out of my hands so I just concentrated on training while I was away, and let everyone else deal with it.
“I was pretty relaxed. Hibs have a valuation of me and I fully respect that. No club met it and I’m still a Hibs player and delighted to be that.”
One man who certainly wasn’t delighted to see the player in green in white was Saints boss Tommy Wright, who simmered with anger at his own side’s display.
“He was obviously very disappointed with the performance,” said own-goal scorer Paul Paton about his manager. “I remember playing against St Johnstone in the First Division a few years ago, so to see the manager get very upset after a draw against Hibs, it’s only a good thing. If you’d offered us five games unbeaten at the start of the season, where we’ve played Hibs and had to go to Celtic, I think we would have taken it.”