John McGinn could be 'spooked' by Hibs return as Aston Villa ranked above Celtic and Rangers

Lewis Stevenson reckons former Hibs team-mate John McGinn could be put off his game by the emotion surrounding his Easter Road return in the Europa Conference League play-off first leg on Wednesday.

McGinn earned cult hero status at Hibs before making the move to Aston Villa in 2018 having been a driving force behind the Leith club ending their 114-year wait to lift the Scottish Cup two years earlier. Stevenson ranks the 28-year-old Scotland international among the favourite people he has encountered across his 18 years at Hibs and is relishing the chance to share the pitch with him again.

"It will be nice to see him back," Stevenson said. "I couldn't speak any more highly of him as a player and a person. His whole family were unbelievable. I think the club still means a great deal to him as well. Hopefully he'll be spooked a bit by that and maybe be off guard a bit because he's an unbelievable player.

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"When people leave you genuinely want them to do well but none more so than John. To watch him thrive and get better, and be one of the best players in the English Premier League and do so well for Scotland is great to see.

Lewis Stevenson (right) and John McGinn were Hibs team-mates for three years before the latter's move to Aston Villa.Lewis Stevenson (right) and John McGinn were Hibs team-mates for three years before the latter's move to Aston Villa.
Lewis Stevenson (right) and John McGinn were Hibs team-mates for three years before the latter's move to Aston Villa.

"He's probably as excited as we are. It's probably somewhere he never thought he'd be able to play again. I never thought I'd play against him again. He was unbelievable here. He was a proper hero for the relatively short period of time he was here. I've never seen somebody make such an impact with the fans and the whole club. It'll be great to see him back but when that whistle starts he's on the opposite side and he's the enemy for the next 90 or 180 minutes."

While Hibs were edging past Raith Rovers with a 2-1 victory in the Viaplay Cup on Sunday, Villa were firing four past Everton in the English Premier League – with McGinn among the scorers. Stevenson admits Hibs face a huge task but while he ranks Villa above the Old Firm, he is taking encouragement from recent home performances against Glasgow's big two which included a 4-2 win over Celtic in May – albeit after the title was already won – as well as a 2-2 draw against Rangers this time last year.

"I think they'll be the best we've played – apart from Barcelona in a friendly," he said. "I've played against some good Rangers and Celtic teams but money-wise I think they are a step ahead. It's going to be really tough. It's something I thought I'd never do – play against an English team in a competitive game – so I'll be trying to make the most of it and telling all the younger ones that these games don't come around too often so we need to enjoy them.

"The manager will have a game-plan and and we just need to focus on the match rather than the occasion. We've had some decent success against Rangers and Celtic so we need to look at that and try to emulate that kind of scenario. We'll need to be solid but we still need to have that threat to hit them on the counter attack. We're not just here to get our tummies tickled.”



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