John McGinn knows his ambition will take him away from Easter Road, but the Scotland midfielder revealed: “It does not have to be now.”
McGinn is braced for another summer of speculation over his future, Hibs boss Neil Lennon admitting he was surprised there were no bids for the 23-year-old during the January transfer window having turned down an offer from Nottingham Forest a year ago.
Lennon rates McGinn in the £5million bracket, but with just a year to run on his current contract, the time will come when Hibs have to balance what will be a reducing value against what he can continue to offer the Capital club as they seek to build on an impressive return to the Premiership.
McGinn is, of course, well aware of the situation, but is adamant that his departure will only come around if it suits both him and Hibs.
He is also conscious of the anxiety among supporters regarding both him and Dylan McGeouch, the latter out of contract at the end of an outstanding season which has seen him force his way into new Scotland manager Alex McLeish’s thoughts.
But, insisted McGinn, it’s something he’s become used to dealing with, the former St Mirren player saying: “Speculation is something that always been there since my first season here.
“I’ve always said the same thing. I am learning, I am getting better and I love playing in front of sell-out crowds.
“I feel as if I am getting better all the time, but at the same time I am ambitious. I want to go and test myself at a higher level, but it would have to be something better than Hibs. I don’t take for granted being here. I love it and I am sure the rest of the boys are the same.
“I have a year left on my contract and it would take something special for me to leave.”
McGinn admitted that should an offer Hibs deem acceptable comes in, there would be a decision to make. However, that’s something he’s adamant will be dealt with if and when that should transpire.
He said: “I respect how good I have got it here. I love it, playing with the boys in front of those supporters, that’s never changed. I think the fans know that, I’ve never hidden the fact I am ambitious at some point. But that does not have to be now. I think all parties will know when the time is right, but it’s up to myself to keep playing away and focus on what I am doing.”
What McGinn and his team-mates are doing is ensuring the battle for second place in the Premiership table will go right down to the wire, the weekend victory over champions-elect Celtic keeping a side newly returned to the top flight after three years in the Championship, very much in touch with Rangers and Celtic.
Having suffered a defeat away to Dumbarton on his debut after being signed by Lennon’s predecessor Alan Stubbs, McGinn has been at the heart of a revival which has encompassed winning the Scottish Cup in 2016, a journey which, he believes, has returned Hibs to where they should be.
He said: “It’s a club that should be getting crowds like those who are watching players who are looking to express themselves and enjoy it, that’s what they have got here. Saturday against Celtic was probably the loudest I have heard Easter Road with the exception of the derbies. We could see the appreciation the fans were giving us, they were loving what they were watching and that adds an extra two or three per cent to your game.
“It brings the best out of you, the fans are loving it, the players are loving it. I hope it continues.”
While McGinn isn’t alone in feeling Hibs are very much a club on the up, he claimed the 2-1 victory to put Celtic’s title party on ice was an indication of the potential within Easter Road, although he admitted he and his team-mates remain very much the underdogs to claim that runners-up spot.
“It certainly put a marker down,” he said, “It makes it tougher for Kilmarnock to catch us and we are not naive enough to think they are out of it yet because they have been on such a strong run.
“We are looking behind us, but more importantly we are looking up to try to get second. We knew how important it was going into the Celtic game. People are tipping us for second place. We know this was another three points, but if we hadn’t taken them it was going to be a tall order.
“It’s still going to be tough, but the way we played in front of a great crowd, I think you can see we are thriving.”
Having said that, McGinn acknowledged that Lennon’s game-plan, allied to 90 plus minutes of adhering rigidly to that blueprint had produced a victory which Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers accepted had gone to the better team on the day.
He said: “We respect Celtic because they are the top team in the country, but at the same time you need to try to implement your strengths in to the game and that’s what the manager drilled into us all week.
“He was very meticulous in trying to stop Celtic from building from the back, trying to nick the ball high up the pitch and to break on them. It worked, we could have been a few goals ahead, but Hibs being Hibs, we made it difficult for ourselves and at the end there were a few dead bodies.
“Even if your game plan works, it doesn’t mean you are going to beat Celtic, that’s how good they are. You need to be focused for the 90 minutes and the fact I’d never had cramp in my life, but got it in that match shows how hard we had to work to get the three points.
“But everyone put in a shift, Ofir Marciano made some great saves. It could easily have been a draw – but it could easily have been more for us.”
Given Hibs’ season, McGinn, not surprisingly, agreed Lennon should be among the contenders for the manager of the year award but while recognising the part he has played, he insisted Stubbs shouldn’t be forgotten having taken over in the wake of that shock relegation.
“He changed the dimensions of the club,” he said, “He made it a lot more professional and the gaffer has carried it on. You can see the real progression in this football club. You see how many people are coming through the gates and if it keeps going at this rate they are going to have to put more seats in.”