The 23-year-old Scotland midfielder, who was the subject of failed bids from Nottingham Forest last summer, was yesterday linked with Cardiff City. With just 18 months left on his contract, McGinn appears to destined to move on sooner or later. When that moment comes – whether it is over the next five days or in the summer – Lennon believes a significant void will be left in Hibs’ engine room.
“We’ve had no enquiries for John as yet but I’d be surprised if there wasn’t interest in him,” said the manager. “He’s a huge player for the club. If he were to go, he would be more or less irreplaceable in the short term, that’s for sure. He’s been a real lion for the club in the last couple of years. You are always working on things, but to find a player of John’s ability right at this minute would cost a lot of money, so we need a lot of money in for him.”
After a lull in his performance levels over the festive period, Lennon was pleased to see McGinn back to his dominant best as he scored the only goal of the game in Wednesday’s victory away to Dundee. “We saw John at his very, very best on Wednesday night, which was very pleasing,” said the manager. “He played really strongly and it was good to see that as he’s been a little bit off colour in recent games and even before the break. He was back to his best and it was great to see him score. He’d a huge influence on the game. We’ll be looking for the same against Celtic.”
McGinn has fared well against the champions this season. He was particularly impressive on his team’s last visit to Celtic Park when he scored a double in a 2-2 draw at the end of September. Lennon expects his midfield powerhouse to rise to the challenge once more as he goes head-to-head with Scotland captain Scott Brown.
“He enjoys the challenge of playing against the best players and Scott Brown is one of the best players there has been for a long, long time, not just in Scotland but probably in the UK,” said Lennon. “You always want to go out and try your best against the best. Subconsciously, you just click into that mode of thinking.
“But I don’t think it’s a Brown v McGinn scenario at all. It’s Hibs against the champions, a very dominant Celtic team. John was a standout in one of the games. I thought he played very well here at Easter Road even though I didn’t think we played that well. I think we were fortunate to get the point that day.”
Hibs continue to be without Steven Whittaker, who has been badly hindered by a pelvic problem recently. “He has been a big miss for us,” said Lennon. “The quality of player that he is, and the way we set the team up, it is not ideal having him out for such a period of time. I do think we miss his qualities. The sooner we get him back, we will be a better team for it.”
Marvin Bartley also remains sidelined with the injury he sustained against Hearts on Sunday, but Lennon hopes to have the midfielder back for the visit of Aberdeen. “We are hoping he will be fit for Wednesday,” said the manager. “Dylan McGeouch had a dead leg, but should be OK. There are a few bumps and bruises. Martin Boyle had an Achilles problem that has been flaring up for the last few weeks. Brandon Barker came off with fatigue more than anything else (at Dundee). Both should be fine for Celtic.”