Such was the speculation surrounding John McGinn’s future, there was a collective exhaling of breath by the Hibernian management and fans when the window closed with the player still in situ.
But they were not the only ones happy to put the uncertainty behind them, the midfielder admitting the rumours and questions had proved a distraction to him, too.
“January was a strange month for me,” said McGinn. “I was asked three or four times about my future and each time I said I was happy here and that I would reassess things in the summer – but that didn’t seem to stop the speculation! It just kept coming and coming.
“It’s something you say shouldn’t affect you but subconsciously it can. It affects your game. So once the window closed it was good to get that weight off my shoulders because I knew deep down I was staying here.”
Under contract at the Easter Road club until the end of next season, the Scotland international says that he was not made aware of any particular interest, despite being linked with clubs down south and apparently attracting admiring glances from Celtic. A player who has regularly been touted for a move to a bigger club, in a bigger league, due to his performances since joining Hibs, he stressed that even if the club had welcomed any deals, he would not have jumped at a switch unless he felt it would be an obvious step up and would have advanced his career development,
He has turned in magical performances and scored against the league champions and he turned it on again in the side’s first outing after the window closed, against the other major Glasgow side, Rangers. But with his immediate future settled, he will now head into the remainder of the season focused on reproducing that form week in, week out.
“Now hopefully the speculation will stop… for a while… and that will allow me to concentrate on my football. Over the course of the season I think I have played some of my best football in a Hibs shirt. I had a slight dip but I feel now I am getting back to my best and hopefully I can show that over the rest of the season.
“I have always felt I have unfinished business here. We have had some success over the past couple of seasons. But getting Hibs back into European football is something that excites me. I don’t shy away from that.
“This is a great place for a young Scottish player to play football and you can’t take that for granted. And if we managed to get European football this season it would be another feather in the cap and another successful season for Hibs.
“I feel the club appreciates what I do, so I would never be in a rush to leave that, I would never go anywhere that wouldn’t take my career to the next level because we don’t just have a great bunch of boys here, we have a talented bunch of boys. You could go somewhere else and stagnate and stop your development. But I have such good people around me here who are helping me get better as a player.
“Don’t get me wrong, I have ambitions down the line and I think everyone understands that. It would have to be the right thing at the right time for all parties, though.”
Among those vying for the top slots in the Premiership, and the European football that would secure, are Aberdeen. Derek McInnes’ men currently lie second in the standings and while Hibs have fared well against the other teams flying high in the league, the Pittodrie team have had the beating of the Leith side in their two previous meetings, with the last ending in a 4-1 defeat.
“That was one of the lowest points of the season, along with the derby [Scottish Cup loss],” McGinn added. “We’ve had a few disappointments in my time here but it was the manner that we lost that upset us. No-one in the dressing room thought it was acceptable and the manager made that clear.
“He was entitled to do so. None of us had a leg to stand on. But he knows and we know we have a talented dressing room which works as hard as we can.
“Aberdeen are the only team we haven’t taken any points from this season so we’re determined to show we can do that. But, at the same time, we respect them as a side and we know they have threats who can hurt us.
“For us it’s so important to beat the teams around us to try to hang on to them. Our main aim was to get into the top six and we’re so close to that. Once we get there we have no doubt we can go on and compete up there. But, if we slip up against the teams around us, it will be so difficult, we know we can’t do that.”