'It’s very easy for people to disrespect Scottish football but I take that personally': John McGinn warns Aston Villa team-mates not to under-estimate Hibs as he shares his thoughts on which players pose a threat

John McGinn says that he takes it personally when people down south disrespect Scottish football and he has warned his Aston Villa team-mates not to take Wednesday’s European clash with Hibs lightly.

The Villa captain is looking forward to his Easter Road return, having left in 2018 with a bucket load of good memories and a Scottish Cup winners’ medal in his back pocket, but he has been using his knowledge of the club to help plot their Europa Conference League exit.

“It’s very easy for people down here to disrespect Scottish football but I take that personally. I know this will be a tough game and a very difficult start for us in European competition.”

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The English Premier League side are among the bookies’ favourites to progress to the group stage and beyond and McGinn and Co will have aspirations to win the tournament but first they have to jettison Hibs and a number of McGinn’s former colleagues.

Aston Villa captain John McGinn has fond memories of his spell at Hibs and is looking forward to Wednesday's Europa Conference League match at Easter Road. Photo by Ross Parker/SNS GroupAston Villa captain John McGinn has fond memories of his spell at Hibs and is looking forward to Wednesday's Europa Conference League match at Easter Road. Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group
Aston Villa captain John McGinn has fond memories of his spell at Hibs and is looking forward to Wednesday's Europa Conference League match at Easter Road. Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group

“I’ve had a few texts here from the boys I know. Lewis Stevenson, big Paul Hanlon, Martin Boyle and Dave Gray, who’s on the coaching staff. They’re good friends of mine. They were brilliant team-mates and it will be great to see them again. I fully respect how good those guys are.”

But he knows there will be no old pals’ act for the duration of the play-off game, which kicks off at 5.45pm in Leith tomorrow.

“A few Hibs regimes have probably tried to get a couple of players I’ve mentioned out, but the biggest credit I can pay them is they’re still the first names on the team-sheet.

“They’re men of resilience who are second to none. I’m looking forward to playing against them, though maybe not when Lewis smashes into the back of me!”

McGinn remains a legend at the capital club but, as Aston Villa skipper he knows the onus is on him to prepare his side as best he can and that includes warning them that they will face a fight.

“It’ll be frantic, frenetic, physical and I’ve told them that. There was a spell in that first leg against Luzern where a few tackles were flying in. I’ll be making the boys aware we need to respect Hibs fully.

“On the night Hibs could turn up and win, so we need to be focused and make sure we’re at it. I watched both games against Luzern and I thought the way Hibs dealt with both legs was brilliant.

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“I felt Luzern played better at Easter Road than they did in Switzerland, but Hibs managed that second half well. The third goal in the home game was so important because if you go there with a one-goal lead it becomes a totally different game. But the two-goal lead allowed Hibs to go out and try to get the first goal in Switzerland and it was a great finish by Youan. The way they handled the two legs was very mature.”

Having spent three memorable years at Hibs, the Scotland captain retains a keen interest in the club and a positive relationship with the fanbase, which is why he is looking forward to his return. That makes him a dangerous man to have in the Villa camp, where he has been able to imbue his team-mates with insider information on their Scottish Premiership opponents and remind them that while there is a huge financial disparity between the teams, Hibs will be doing all they can to prevent that being obvious. His manager Unai Emery has been doing likewise, according to the 28-year-old Scot.

“I’ve already been asked loads of questions and I’ve said to expect a nice stadium, a nice pitch, a nice city, a nice hotel, brilliant food and nice people. But if your foot’s off the gas at all, you might get a rude awakening when the game starts. I’ve given them as much information as possible and they’re excited to play Hibs.

“Even the boys who have no affiliation wanted this game because there will be a little more spice than if we were playing Luzern. The boys who have never played in Scotland are keen to go up there and show what they can do.

“On Monday morning, I walked past the Villa analysis room and there were about ten guys going through all the Hibs clips from the Raith Rovers game and both legs against Luzern.

“The manager treats every team the same. Hibs will get the same respect Everton got on Sunday and I’ll be making sure our full-backs know that Elie Youan and Martin Boyle are two dangerous players. I’ll also be warning the centre-backs about Dylan Vente, who I thought was really good in both ties. Even though the financial gulf might be really big, we know as players the margins are very small.”

Just two games into their season, McGinn was a star turn as Aston Villa bettered Everton on Sunday and he will be one for Hibs to watch but he admits it will be strange to run out at Easter Road on the opposing side and be doing his best to end the Euro dreams of a club he has such strong feelings for.

“When I was there it was a special place to play, with great people, and we were fortunate to be relatively successful, though I still feel we under-achieved in that spell, which hurts a little bit.

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“It will be nice to see the supporters and thank them for what was an amazing three years. There might be a wee appreciation when my name’s read out, but once that’s over with I’m sure they’ll be focused on Hibs winning. And, I’ll be doing my utmost to get a goal and do my best for my current employer. But I’ve got a lot of respect for the way I was treated at Hibs. Out of respect, [if I score] I’d curb any celebrations.”



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