John McGinn insists he’ll be sticking around to help Hibs win promotion under a new head coach despite being left gutted by the departure of the man who transformed his career.
The 21-year-old midfielder was on Scotland duty last week when he heard that Scottish Cup-winning boss Stubbs was heading to Rotherham United.
McGinn was saddened by the news as he feels the 44-year-old Liverpudlian and his backroom staff have improved him immeasurably since luring him from St Mirren last summer.
“It was disappointing to see the gaffer leave because he was amazing for me personally, and for the team,” said McGinn, who was yesterday named 2015/16 Ladbrokes Championship player of the year. “I always look back to the first time I met him. It was me, my mum and my dad, and he said to me ‘I guarantee I’ll make you a better player’ – I think he’s done that. John Doolan and Taff [Andy Holden] alongside him were a big help as well. They all worked well together. Hibs was a great place to be over the past season. It was really enjoyable. Every day I was coming in looking forward to training because we were always doing something different. It was refreshing.
“The board were desperate to keep the gaffer because he transformed the club. I think it was on a massive downer when he arrived, but you could see, even when I was looking from the outside, he had it going in the right direction.
“We just missed out on promotion, which was hard. But you saw on the day of the Cup Final how much potential this club has – and it was the gaffer and his staff who got it moving in the right direction. I text him to wish him all the best and thanked him for all he’s done for me and he replied along the same lines. Rotherham have got themselves a really good manager.”
McGinn is sure to attract interest from elsewhere this summer after forcing his way into the Scotland squad in recent months, but he remains under contract for another three years. Hibs’ prized asset insists he is still totally content at Easter Road despite the prospect of another season in the Championship under a new boss.
“It’s been unbelievable here,” he said. “The club has transformed my career and taken it to another level. It was really disappointing that we didn’t get promoted, but it’s a happy club to be at. I’m very happy here. We’ve got a great squad. It’s disappointing that the manager’s left but that’s football. I’m sure I’ll have just as good a relationship with the new manager. I feel like I’ve got unfinished business here. We had a squad that we all felt was capable of competing in the Premiership, so we’ve got a determination to go and prove ourselves in the league and show that we’re a Premiership club. I want to be part of that.
“Before the cup final, we were told that we’d always be remembered for winning that trophy – but we wouldn’t be remembered the same if we failed in the Championship next year. I’m keen to enjoy more days like the cup parade and get more success. That will come if we win the Championship.”
Neil Lennon, the former Celtic manager, remains the hot favourite to take the reins at Easter Road after talks opened between Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster and the Northern Irishman at the end of last week.
McGinn, a boyhood Celtic fan, knows all about Lennon’s credentials after watching him in his playing days and then seeing him lead the Parkhead club to three league titles and a place in the last 16 of the Champions League. He believes the club now represents an attractive proposition for any prospective new manager.
“Neil’s a manager who has worked at the highest level, so if it was him, we’d all be looking forward to working with him,” said McGinn. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens. It’s an exciting time for the club. We’re in Europe and we’re hoping to get promoted, so whoever comes in has got a good job on their hands with a talented squad.
“It’s an attractive job. All you have to do is look at the last day of the season [the Scottish Cup triumph]. That shows how hungry the fans have been for success, how ready the club is just to be sparked into life. I think the fans have been hard done by over the years. That’s why not all of them come on a Saturday.
Hopefully days like a couple of weeks ago will get them back, put bums on seats and start the club sparking again. Whoever gets the job, I’m really looking forward to working with him and hopefully learning something new.”
McGinn insists he has no worries about a new head coach changing the way Hibs go about their business, as long as it results in promotion.
“Different managers have different ways of doing things,” he said. “I don’t think anyone at the club – us as players, the board, fans – will care much how it happens. What style of football it is, that won’t matter as long as we get the club up. We always said promotion was the main goal for us last season and we failed. This year, we are determined to put that right.”
McGinn has on international duty with Scotland over the past week although a niggling injury prevented him featuring in the defeats to Italy and France.
“It was disappointing to pick up a wee knock before the Italy game but the staff and physios were happy enough for me to come along and I was delighted to do that,” he said. “It was great to be in and around the squad. It’s amazing for me to be learning off guys like Darren Fletcher and James McArthur, and to get up close and personal with two world-class teams is priceless for me.
“I was really keen just to be involved in it. Gordon Strachan knows what I can do and it’s great that the past season hasn’t held me back. It gives me great confidence that he’s said he’ll pick me even though I’ve been playing in the Championship. When I’m playing week in, week out at Hibs, that’s helping my development and I’m sure that’s something the staff at Scotland want to see.”
McGinn arrived back from France in the early hours of yesterday morning, nipped to Easter Road to pick up his player of the year award, and then jetted off for a well-deserved holiday after appearing in 53 matches for Hibs as well as a handful of international matches. “It has been a marathon,” he said. “But it’s been good, a bit of everything – ups and downs. The award I’ve received is recognition for myself, the coaches and the team. It shows that I’ve been improving and I’m looking to do that again next year.
“I was supposed to be getting an extra couple of days off this summer because I’ve been away with Scotland, but that was the old gaffer, so I’ll see what the new gaffer says!”