John McGinn glad he has football as a means of escape

John McGinn celebrates after opening the scoring. Pic: SNS
John McGinn celebrates after opening the scoring. Pic: SNS
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A crucial goal on a historic European night is another feather in the cap for John McGinn as the upward trajectory of the dynamic midfielder’s career gains momentum.

Amid prying attention triggered by Celtic’s high-profile pursuit of his services – and now English Premier League outfit Brighton’s interest – the green grass of a football pitch has offered the 23-year-old sanctuary from the supporters keen to extract any crumb of information over his intentions.

The Hibs fans found themselves behind barded wire

The Hibs fans found themselves behind barded wire

Fresh from scoring the crucial goal in Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Asteras Tripolis to earn Neil Lennon’s side a stunning Europa League 4-3 aggregate victory, the Scotland internationalist has broken his silence about the moves to prise him away from Easter Road.

The Bhoys have had three offers, the latest reportedly being £2 million, rebuffed, while Brighton are now also among his suitors after initiating talks with Hibs.

A boyhood Celtic fan and former season ticket holder, the emotional appeal of a switch to the east end of Glasgow for McGinn, whose grandfather Jack was once the club’s chairman, is difficult to suppress. While the attraction of a move south of the border to join football’s wealthiest league is obvious.

McGinn, who is in the final year of his contract, admits pulling his boots on in the refuge of the club’s East Mains training base and in games has allowed him to distance himself from the clamour.

“It was really hard initially but when you’re on the football park, you forget,” said McGinn, who scored the first goal in the fraught draw in Greece as Hibs came through two successive European ties for the first time in 45 years to set up a third qualifying round clash with Norwegian side Molde.

“You’re walking along the street and everyone is asking you. It’s no bother for the first few times but then it starts getting annoying. You just want to focus on your football and keep getting better and let things happen.

“It’s tough, I’ve never hidden from the fact that there will be a time that I move on but it will have to be the right time and the right moment but obviously that’s not come yet.

“Football is a great place to get away from things and going over to Greece was amazing and I’ve loved it – it is basically getting away from all the talk.

“I know you try and ignore it but sometimes it’s impossible, but it’s been good to get a couple of results over the last couple of weeks and I’ve loved it.

“Even the boys at training just make light of it and, after one or two jokes, they just carry on as if nothing has happened.”

Lennon has been in McGinn’s shoes previously after a protracted transfer saga preceded his dream switch to Celtic from Leicester City in December 2000. McGinn, therefore, is grateful to be able to confide in the Northern Irishman.

The playmaker, who has turned his attention to tomorrow’s Premiership opener against Motherwell at Easter Road, added: “I had a few discussions with the manager and he was great, he has been in this position himself.

“He is a really good guy to bounce things off and he said he was in this position when he was at Leicester and he wished he dealt with it a bit differently.

“Thankfully I’ve taken that advice on board and I need to keep improving.

“That’s what’s got me in this position and I want to carry that on and keep getting better as a player.”

Given the remaining length of McGinn’s current deal, it is likely that this season will be the 2016 Scottish Cup winner’s swan song in Leith. He is adamant, however, that his performances will not suffer.

“I’m the kind of guy who always gives 100 per cent,” he added. “I’m grateful for what this club has done for me and I love playing for Hibs – I never take that for granted.

“It’s nice to know you’re doing something right but at the same time I need to be respectful to Hibs.

“I’m their player and I’m under contract here and as long as I’m a Hibs players I will give 100 per cent.”

McGinn would doubtless gain extensive European football exposure should he make the move to Celtic and admits the experience of coming through ties with Icelandic side Runavik and Tripolis has been exceptional.

He added: “The benefit of coming to a place like Greece and winning is priceless for your development.

“A few of us have been playing for Scotland since under-19 level so we are used to being away in Europe on trips.

“You see opposition who will try to do anything to win and sometimes you need to try and do the same. They cheat and do whatever they can to win.

“The big thing is that they are very good at it, you learn a lot of about your own game by experiencing this. You need to be brave to able to stand up to tough atmospheres and against top players.

“Playing away from home in Europe is never easy.

“I watched Celtic against Rosenborg on Wednesday night and they didn’t play particularly well. But the only thing that matters is that they are in the next round.”