John McGinn is intent on taking his game to a new level when he makes the step up to the Premiership with Hibs.
The 22-year-old has been happy with his progress since arriving at Easter Road from St Mirren two years ago, but is adamant he still has plenty of scope for improvement. After a Championship-winning campaign in which he admits he didn’t hit the heights of his first year at Hibs, McGinn is hellbent on making a major impact in the top flight next term.
“I don’t feel the past season is the best I’ve played in my career but I still feel as if I’ve been turning in good performances,” he told the Evening News after being named the Ladbrokes Championship player of the season. “My standards were set really high from last season. There have been times over this season where I’ve met those standards, but there have been times where I haven’t. I’m fully aware of that, and next season I’ll be looking to try and take my game a step further at a higher level.
“I’ve been learning a different style of football this season [under Neil Lennon] and I also had the injury around October and November which hampered me. But I got through that and I felt as the season was coming to a close that I was getting stronger, sharper and faster. I’m looking forward to trying to build on that next season.”
McGinn, who has been steadily establishing himself in the Scotland squad over the past 14 months, is striving to become a complete midfielder, capable of excelling in all aspects of the role. “Long term, I feel I can keep going box to box,” he said, when asked how he anticipates his game developing in his peak years. “I feel energetic and fresh, and I feel as if I could run all day. Some managers will view me differently – I think when I go away with the national team I’m viewed more as a deep-lying midfielder, but at Hibs towards the end of the season I was going box to box. The manager’s used me in a few positions this season. I’ve been sitting, I’ve been box to box, and I’ve also played higher up. It’s good that the manager has the confidence and trust in me to play me in different positions. Under Alan Stubbs I was one of the wide players in a narrow midfield diamond, and I also enjoyed that. I could probably play wide midfield as well. It’s good to learn different styles and try and add more variation to my game. I’m quite versatile and I’ll play wherever the manager wants me to play, but I’d say I’m a box-to-box midfielder.”
McGinn, renowned for his high-energy approach, pinpoints composure in front of goal as one of the most obvious ingredients he needs to add to his game after scoring just ten times – five in each season – since joining Hibs. Prior to arriving in Edinburgh, he scored four goals in almost 100 appearances for St Mirren. “I’m learning new sides of the game and I feel as if I’m covered in most bases, but I just need to add goal-scoring to my game,” he said. “I only had one goal up to January of this season. It improved slightly in the second half of the season, but it’s something I’ve been working hard to improve. I find I get into good positions but I don’t compose myself enough. I need to be able to finish it off more than not.
“It’s a bit frustrating that most of my goals come from long range. I was working with [assistant manager] Garry Parker at the start of the season on getting into the box more and I scored a header in the friendly against Motherwell, but that’s the last time I scored one of them. It’s good to have an area like to that to work on. I want to get to double figures next season, and I think I’ve got it in my game to do it. I just want to be a complete midfielder, and I’ll be working every day to try and do that.”
McGinn feels he has become a more rounded athlete since joining Hibs two years ago. The facilities available at East Mains, allied to training on a daily basis with the two heavyweights of East Mains, Marvin Bartley and Darren McGregor, has helped make him a more robust player equipped to hold his own against the most physical opponents. “Physically I’ve come on a lot in the last two years,” he said. “We’ve got a really good sports science department at Hibs. At St Mirren they maybe didn’t have the same resources, but Hibs is a massive club with a lot more staff than St Mirren. I was lucky enough that the first day I walked through the door I met [sports scientist] Craig Flannigan, who’s unfortunately now at Rangers, and [fitness coach] Paul Green, who’s still here. I work really closely with Paul on a regular basis and I feel he’s brought my game on leaps and bounds. He’s getting the best out of me because I feel like I’m improving all the time.
“In the modern game, everyone’s fit, so you just need to try and be even fitter than them. Everything’s so important – your diet, your attitude, even the small things you do before and after training to make your game slightly better. It’s all about the small margins, and every time I go on the pitch I’m feeling stronger and fitter.
“Me and Marv like a good grapple in training, so it’s always good testing yourself against guys like him and Daz. They’re absolute brute men, but I feel as if I can cope alongside that. I’d much rather tackle Marv though because Daz can break you in two. [Martin] Boyle likes to try and stay away from Marv and Daz in training, but I like to go and compete head to head with them. I feel as if I’m as strong as I’ve ever been. I’m in prime condition and hopefully over the summer I can add to that and be even better next season.”
On winning the Ladbrokes award, he said: “It’s good to get personal recognition and after achieving what we’ve attempted to achieve over the past two seasons it’s good to top it off. My team-mates have been brilliant all season. A few of them are as worthy, if not more so, of getting the award. Big Darren McGregor has been terrific and Jason Cummings has scored over 20 goals again. They’ve been different class and thanks go to them for helping me win this.”