As the anaesthesia wore off and John McGinn regained his senses in his hospital bed having undergone ankle surgery, the Scotland midfielder had a glance at the Labrdokes Championship fixture list and immediately targeted Friday’s visit of Dundee United.
Renowned Edinburgh-based surgeon Graham Lawson implored the 22-year-old not to be “stupid” during his convalescence but McGinn was determined that he would not need the estimated 12 weeks to recover from having a “hook-like” piece of calcified bone shaved off, a worsening problem he claims left him at playing at 60 per cent for two or three months.
Six weeks and six days after playing in his last match against Queen of the South, McGinn marked his return to the first team with a fantastic solo effort in a 12-minute cameo appearance in Friday’s 3-0 humbling of their title rivals.
He could have had a couple of assists to his name, too, had his team-mates exhibited better composure in the final third.
McGinn’s comeback was all the more impressive given that head coach Neil Lennon admitted that he had only trained for 20 minutes with his team-mates prior to helping the team move four points clear at the summit.
“I made the Dundee United game my target pretty much once the drugs wore off after the operation,” said a smiling McGinn. “I had my eye on it.
“I got told, initially, not to be stupid by the surgeon Graham Lawson. Ever since I had the operation, the surgeon was telling me eight to 12 weeks. I was thinking: ‘I’m young, I’m a quicker healer, so let’s aim for sooner’.
“It was a very complex operation. I had a bit like a hook outside of my left leg and it was really painful every time I hit the ball with my left foot. But the physio kind of whispered in my ear and said we’d hopefully get me back sooner.
“I’m a determined boy and I was keeping on at the physios and saying how much I wanted back for that game, I knew it was a big game.
“That’s been six weeks since the operation. I went to see a surgeon last week and he wasn’t sure. But when he said you can play a small part in the game I was over the moon. A big thanks to him for letting me go out and play; he is one of the top surgeons and I’m delighted he gave me the all clear.
“I held on to that and thankfully the manager gave me 15 minutes to go out there and play. Hopefully I can kick on next week at Dumbarton and play a little bit longer.”
McGinn ran on to the pitch to a deafening welcome from the majority of the 18,786 supporters inside Easter Road and he celebrated his return with a goal, forcing his way past Scott Fraser before beating Cammy Bell from a tight angle.
“I never imagined myself scoring and normally in those sort of positions I get a nose bleed,” he added: “But I was a bit more composed and I saw his legs opening and put the ball through.
“I warmed up last week on the pitch at Falkirk just to get a touch of the ball and feeling involved again. I’ve missed it a lot.”
McGinn’s return to action will also come as a fillip to Scotland ahead of the return to World Cup qualifying action against Slovenia in March.
National team manager Gordon Strachan was an interested observer at Easter Road but had left by the time McGinn slotted home.
“The manager knows what I can do,” added McGinn. “It’s just up to myself to keep performing and hopefully I can stay in his plans.”