Kevin Thomson believes Hibs will benefit from having an ambitious player determined to impress potential suitors after they resisted Nottingham Forest’s attempts to prise John McGinn out of Easter Road before the transfer window closed on Thursday night.
The prospect of losing the talismanic 22-year-old midfielder grew over the past week as the English Championship club tabled a couple of offers for his services – the second of which was in the region of £1.5m. However, Hibs manager Neil Lennon, placing a fanciful £5million valuation on his head, made it clear they would only sell their star player for top dollar. In the end, they held on to the highly-regarded Scotland internationalist beyond transfer-deadline day in what Thomson views as a coup.
“I had a sneaky feeling he might go, but when I saw he was on the flight to Lithuania (with Scotland on Thursday morning) it was looking unlikely that he’d be able to get anywhere else in Britain to sign by midnight,” former Hibs captain Kevin Thomson told the Evening News.
“It’s a huge coup for Hibs to hold on to him because he is already capable of playing at a different level. The fans love him, the players love him and the staff love him, so it’s a huge boost for everyone that they’ve kept him. He’s built up a great reputation.
“He’s a great lad with a good head on his shoulders, so his time will come. But for now, he’s in the best place and working under the best manager to keep on showcasing his talents.”
Thomson believes McGinn is primed to take his game to a new level as he bids to show he can live up to the hype which has developed around him since he broke into St Mirren’s first-team as an 18-year-old.
“For me, this is the first real test of his career in the sense that he’s playing in the top flight with a level of expectation on his shoulders,” said Thomson, who was a Hibs team-mate of McGinn in the second half of the 2015/16 season.
“When you become a fans’ favourite and people are talking about you, that brings extra pressure. Your team-mates also expect of you. Regardless of his age, John is one of the guys the Hibs players will look to try and lead them and push them on. He’s the driving force, the powerhouse of the team, if you like.
“He’s probably the one player at Hibs who can grab a game by the scruff of the neck and this is his chance to really show everybody how good a player he is. That means dominating the majority of teams in the Premiership. That expectation is something John will need to deal with, but I think he’ll take it in his stride.”
McGinn is contracted to Hibs until 2019, with Neil Lennon confirming that the club are attempting to extend the deal. However, Thomson believes that the midfielder, who moved to Easter Road from St Mirren two years ago, will be heading to England sooner or later.
“I’d be surprised if he signs a new contract and the majority of fans will be realistic enough to know he’ll be moving on at some point,” he said. “But Hibs will want to get as much service as they can from him while he’s here. When the time does come to move on, John should aim as high as he can.
“The Premier League’s different to the Championship. The Championship is more hustle and bustle. Could John cope with that? Easy-peasy. The Premier League’s more about ball retention and is shorter and sharper. I think John could also cope with that.
“At 22, he’d be more suited to the Championship but he’s certainly got the tools to keep on developing and become a Premier League player one day.”