Hibernian captain David Gray has insisted John McGinn doesn’t hold the key to the Easter Road side’s Europa League campaign but admitted the Scotland mifielder, a signing target for Celtic, would be hard to replace.
McGinn made his first competitive appearance of the season as the Edinburgh club moved into the second qualifying round of the competition, following up a 6-1 hammering of NSI Runavik of the Faroe Islands at home with a rather harder fought 6-4 victory in Toftir, the 23-year-old playing his part in scoring Hibs’ opening goal and setting up two others.
McGinn had missed the first meeting of the teams thanks to a heavily strapped thigh, although Hibs head coach Neil Lennon admitted the transfer speculation swirling around him – Celtic having had two bids, the second of which was for £1.75 million, turned down – had also been a distraction for the 23-year-old.
However, having declared himself satisfied with McGinn’s performance on Thursday night, Lennon conceded he didn’t know if he would still be a Hibs player when they play the first leg of that second qualifying round tie against Greek club Asteras Tripolis at Easter Road in five days’ time.
“It will be up to the two clubs, or any other club that comes in,” said Lennon. “We have our valuation. We said we’d play him in the Faroes, we played him and we move on.”
Like Lennon, Gray insisted no-one was surprised by the focus McGinn had shown in the surreal surroundings of the clifftop Svangaskard Stadium as Hibs recovered from going 2-0 down in only five minutes to win.
He said: “Everybody would expect that from John. We know the type of player you get with him. Even if he is not having a great game, you know you will get 100 per cent effort and endeavour. Even if John isn’t playing well, you can guarantee his opposite number will be having a tough game as well.
“Whatever happens with John, if he stays then we know exactly what we’ll get. He’ll be the same player and character as always. If he moves on, the best of luck to him because he deserves it for being brilliant in the last couple of seasons.”
Although McGinn’s immediate future remains clouded by uncertainty, Gray believes Hibs will be well prepared should he depart, saying: “If you lose a player like John, then he will be difficult to replace. He is a fantastic talent and one of the best young players coming through in Scotland at the moment.
“But at the same time, we have a really good squad and I’m sure there is work going on in the background to make sure that, if he does move on, then the manager can bring people in to strengthen again. That’s the nature of football.
“We have a good core, confidence levels are high and we can’t wait for the next round.”