Hibs 21st century XI - The central midfielders revealed

Hibs fans voted in their numbers as we asked you to vote for your central midfield pairing of the 21st century. Here's who you chose...

Thursday, 4th July 2019, 3:22 pm
Russell Latapy (left) and John McGinn won the central midfield vote

Russell Latapy

"Now, Hibs have a man over again... Latapy... can he put it into the path of Paatelainen? He's thinking about going himself... Latapy, Paatelainen, Latapy...! Oh, that's a wonderful goal! That's the best of them! Six-one to Hibs, and that is absolutely magnificent! Have a look at this: Latapy - Paatelainen crying out for it - he takes the one-two and the volley is spectacular! What a finish by Russell Latapy, and Hearts are finished in this match, well and truly - they have been given a footballing lesson."

The commentary that accompanies the Little Magician's fine volley in the 6-2 Edinburgh derby win over Hearts may not be as beloved by the Hibs support as "Henderson to deliver" or any of Ian Crocker's follow-up comments, but it's definitely up there.

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Despite being pitted against prodigal son Scott Allan, current Celtic captain Scott Brown, midfield powerhouse Matty Jack and Scottish Cup-winner Dylan McGeouch, Latapy's standing amongst the Hibs support is clear to see, with 66 per cent voting for the Trinidadian wizard.

That Brown, who helped Hibs to League Cup glory in 2007 is more than 50 per cent behind speaks volumes for the esteem in which the Easter Road faithful hold Latapy.

These days, a midfielder arriving in the Capital after spending the best part of a decade in the Portuguese top flight, including two years with Porto and a Champions League run, would spark a lot of interest. But when the 30-year-old arrived in Leith in 1998 with Hibs in the First Division under Alex McLeish, few could have predicted what would follow.

In his book "There's Only One Sauzee", Ted Brack says of Latapy: "The little Trinidadian magician would pick the ball up at half way and run at defenders. He would dribble past them or pick out a slide-rule pass. When he wasn't making goals for others, he was scoring them himself."

Latapy hit six goals in 23 games as Hibs roared back to the Scottish top flight, and continued wowing fans and pundits alike in the top tier. But as his time at Easter Road wound down - Latapy having rejected the offer of a new contract - a boozy night out with international team-mate Dwight Yorke that ended with the Hibs man being charged with a drink-driving misdemeanour meant he had kicked his last ball for the club.

McLeish, confirming the news, remarked: "It's a shame it had to end this way, because Russell has been a fantastic player and he has helped us come a long way in a short time."

He may not have the Scottish Cup or Scottish League Cup trophy that other Hibee legends have, but a First Division title, all the tricks in the book, a winning smile, and that goal against Hearts ensure he won't be easily replaced in most Hibs fans' memories.

John McGinn

John McGinn was up against serious competition in his round of voting. Classy Frenchman Guillaume Beuzelin, Liam Henderson-to-deliver, three-time Hibee Kevin Thomson and turn-of-the-Millennium workhorse John O'Neil could have forced a tight contest.

The reality was very different.

With 82 per cent of the vote, there was, really, no contest. The classy Beuzelin, part of the team to win the League Cup in 2007, should feel fairly happy to have accrued as much as nine per cent of the vote.

O'Neil and Thomson are tied on four per cent while Henderson is on just one per cent.

That a player who notched two assists as Hibs came from behind to win their first Scottish Cup for 114 years could get 81 per cent fewer votes shows how highly McGinn is thought of.

McGinn was also a part of the cup-winning team, and helped fire the team back to the Scottish Premiership the following season.

The midfielder, self-dubbed "Meatball", famously described as having a running style that made him look like he was chasing a helicopter, allied with his bum-first approach to playing endeared him greatly to the Hibs fans who lauded his effort, determination and attitude.

Countless times the former St Mirren man would seize games by the scruff of the neck, and drive Hibs forward. He added goals to his game, with long-range pearlers against Celtic, Rangers and St Johnstone the pick of the bunch. He would noise up opponents with that devilish grin, before leaving them for dead as he rampaged forward.

One of his final acts in a Hibs shirt was to score a vital away goal in Greece as Hibs knocked Asteras Tripolis out of the Europa League. Fans in the Theodoros Kolokotronis Stadium that night may well have the image of McGinn roaring his delight in celebration burned on their retinas.

And then, he was gone. Whisked down to the Midlands by Steve Bruce, who saw him as the perfect cog in the Aston Villa midfield.

You'd be hard-pushed to find a single Hibs fan who begrudged him the move, and a series of top-drawer displays have prompted Villa fans to wonder aloud if their club should have paid more money for the Scotland international. Football fans across the world eulogised when the player hit that wonderful, goal-of-the-season effort against Sheffield Wednesday. Those of a green and white persuasion weren't quite as surprised, having seen similar from him at Celtic Park, Ibrox Park and Tynecastle.

The cherry on top was scoring the winner in the play-off final to catapult Villa back to the English Premier League and sparking speculation McGinn could be on his way to Leicester, or West Ham, or Manchester United. A £50 million move to Old Trafford was mentioned in one newspaper. The money may be astonishing, unbelievable even, but the meteoric rise is not.