John McGinn knew exactly what was coming as he and his team-mates headed for the changing room after being forced to settle for a draw with Raith Rovers – because they had been “treated” to a dress-rehearsal at half-time.
And, the Hibs midfielder revealed, boss Neil Lennon’s post-match rant in which he let rip at his players was nothing compared to what they had been subjected to behind the locked door of that room.
McGinn admitted Lennon had every right to lay into them, venting his anger as they passed up the chance to open up a nine-point lead at the top of the Championship table.
However, the Scotland internationalist insisted it was no ploy by Lennon ahead of tomorrow night’s Scottish Cup replay with arch-rivals Hearts, more an expression of his disappointment in what he’d seen at Stark’s Park.
Revealing the sight of Lennon in full anger mode could be “a wee bit terrifying”, McGinn said: “I can see why he was doing it. We knew we weren’t at it. It’s disappointing because we had an opportunity to go nine points clear but we’re losing points in games that we should be picking up all three.
“I wasn’t surprised because I’d already heard it at half-time and I knew it was coming again if it didn’t improve. In football you can take the praise when it comes, but you’ve got to be ready to take the criticism as well.
“Personally I’m happy to take it when you’re not at the top of your game. The manager’s only doing it because he knows we can do better, so we’re not down about it. We are all in it together at the end of the day. We’re keen to put on a show for him tomorrow night and at the same time prove him wrong and hopefully get a bit of praise after it.”
McGinn pointed out that Lennon had been a winner both as a player and manager at Celtic, a mentality he’s determined to instil in his squad at Easter Road, adding: “I don’t think it was a ploy, it was a reminder that if you want to win trophies, like he has done in his career, you can’t just switch it on and off.
“You’ve got to be at it every week and I think that was the point he was making to us and it’s one we’ll take on board.”
Such was Lennon’s rant at Stark’s Park it was played time and again on radio, McGinn listening in as he made his way home. Adamant that exactly what was said will remain between Lennon and his players, the former St Mirren youngster said: “I think everybody knows what it’s like and we’d rather not get it.
“But if it’s deserved then you take it. I heard what he had to say to the radio people, they kept playing it. The private one, though, was more ferocious.
“I’ve worked under a lot of managers, whether it’s the national team or at St Mirren and everyone has their moments. I think it is important, you can’t just let things pass if they are not good enough.
“It’s important to give the players a kick up the backside when it’s needed and I think on Saturday it was definitely needed.”
McGinn insisted the matter was now closed with all eyes fixed on reaching the quarter-final of the cup by pulling off a repeat of last year’s replay victory over Hearts at Easter Road.
He said: “We came in on Monday, we went over it and discussed what was wrong. It’s obviously good for us that the manager has experienced winning trophies before and that’s what we’re aiming to do here.
“We have a great opportunity to get back into the top league and if we don’t we will only have ourselves to blame. So it’s important we start picking up points, especially away from home.
At the end of the day we’re all pulling in the same direction. We’ve a chance to get to a quarter-final again and there’s no better way to do that than in an Edinburgh derby.”
Having turned in a poor first half against Ayr United ahead of the first game with Hearts and again before this replay, there’s been a suggestion Lennon’s players could be accused of picking and choosing their games – an accusation McGinn hotly disputed.
He said: “I don’t think that is fair, not one player will wake up on a Saturday morning and think ‘I’m not going to try today because it is not an Edinburgh derby’. Games are different, we treated Raith with a lot of respect, maybe too much at a certain stage.
“Their game plan worked more than ours did and we weren’t at our best. I think that was it more than we weren’t trying or anything like that. We’ll always give 110 per cent, it might just not look as if we are at it as much.”
The first clash with Hearts was dire, as McGinn admitted, the 22-year-old revealing he actually felt sorry for Ian Cathro’s players that they had to play on their dreadful Tynecastle pitch again at the weekend.
He said: “The first game was terrible to play in, it really was. I read a few people saying it was the worst Edinburgh derby for years – and I would agree with them.
“But both teams are thankful it was a draw so we can go and show we are not boring teams and we can put on a good show as we did last year.”
Hearts have claimed the better surface at Easter Road will suit them, but McGinn insisted: “We will have three ends of the ground which should help us. The pitch is better and the ball will be on the floor a lot more and we can be a football team as well as Hearts.
“Both teams showed they can battle in the first game and tomorrow night hopefully both teams can show we can play at the same time.
“Hearts are a very different team to last year. They are a different squad of players and I have watched a lot of them this season. They have a lot of threats, a really good squad and a lot of midfielders so it’s anyone’s guess what team they field.
“That’s a positive for them but it is something we will be prepared for. They have a meticulous coaching staff who will make sure any weaknesses we have will be exploited. It will be a different challenge, but it is one we are ready for. Hopefully it will be the same result at last season.”
McGinn is unbeaten as a Hibs player against Hearts, a record he is desperate to keep going saying: “It’s one of the reasons why I came to Hibs, to play in big games like this in front of 20,000 people at Easter Road and being able to show what I can do. These games are a lot bigger than I thought they would be when I signed and hopefully the bragging rights stay with us.”