John McGinn insisted his £170 million strike for Aston Villa which clinched promotion to the English Premier League justified his decision to move south and not wait for Celtic to make their move.
The Scotland midfielder was the man of the match in Villa’s 2-1 win over Derby County at Wembley yesterday and netted the goal that would end up sealing the Midlands club’s return to England’s top flight.
Promotion to the lucrative Premier League is worth an estimated £170m and McGinn’s former club Hibernian will also benefit from Villa’s success.
The Scotland midfielder moved to the Midlands last summer in a £3m deal having helped steer the Easter Road side to a historic Scottish Cup triumph and then the Championship title. Hibs, who had rejected a series of bids from Celtic for the 24-year-old, negotiated a clause in the deal which will now bring in a sizeable bonus due to Villa’s promotion to the top flight.
Anwar El Ghazi put Villa ahead in the 44th minute with a diving header, then McGinn got in front of Derby goalkeeper Kelle Roos to nod in a second goal in the 59th minute. Substitute Jack Marriott pulled a goal back for Derby nine minutes from time to set up a tense finish but Villa held on.
It capped a dream weekend for the McGinn family after brothers Stephen and Paul – who were both at Wembley yesterday – helped St Mirren stay in the Scottish Premiership with a play-off victory over Dundee United on Sunday.
John McGinn said his move to England could not have worked out better.
He said: “I am in absolute dreamland. I remember when I was training with St Mirren as a young boy Ralston was my Hampden and my Wembley.
“I’ve not managed to score at Hampden yet, but to score the winner at Wembley in the play-off finals is beyond my wildest dreams. Hopefully I can challenge myself and establish myself as a Premier League player for Aston Villa.
“It’s just a dream to be honest. I had the option of going to a couple of Premier League clubs last summer, but they could not guarantee me games. So I took a risk and came to Villa, which is a bigger club than the others anyway. Villa guaranteed me game time and my decision is justified and we will be in the Premier League next season.
“Sometimes in football you have to take risks. You have to challenge yourself. I think people maybe had a perception of me that I was just a hard working player, just a runner. Don’t get me wrong, I think I am that but I’ve got a lot more to my game than that. It took coming down to England to challenge myself against stronger, faster players to show I can offer a lot more. Hopefully I can become a big player for Scotland too.
“To score that goal was just surreal. I think I wanted it more than the goalkeeper. Full credit to the referee. I think in Scotland and in the Championship the referee would have bottled it and given a free kick. But I didn’t foul him and when the ball went into the net it was the greatest feeling ever. I don’t know how I will ever recreate this feeling.”