A few years ago I was lucky enough to report on Dean Smith’s first game in charge of Aston Villa.
And I have to say my first visit to Villa Park was a sight to behold as 40,000 odd Villa fans had the place rocking.
That wasn’t the only thing that caught my eye that day.
A player by the name of John McGinn stood out that day as Villa beat Swansea to get Smith’s reign off to a solid start.
The all action midfielder played in the centre of the park with wonder kid Jack Grealish, who was just coming to prominance and making a name for himself.
That day he was better than Grealish. In recent years Grealish is the man who has grabbed all the headlines because he is silkier, he’s a Villa lad and above all, he’s English.
We always tend to rave more about the English talent in this country. Grealish is a terrific player but we do over do it when young lads come through.
Anyway, even to this day, I would say McGinn is as important to Villa’s midfield and the side as a whole as Grealish is.
One thing I noticed was that McGinn possesses a lot of what Grealish has but in a more raw, aggressive form.
A tackler, a battler, who can run at players, who has a sweet left foot and an engine that wouldn’t be seen out of place in a Volkswagen.
He is the heartbeat of the Villa side and although some pundits recognise his contribution these day, for me he is criminally underrated by some.
If McGinn was English he’d be in the England side, no doubt about it.
He has been a huge cog in the well oiled Villa machine this season and is a player Smith has been able to build a side around.
When McGinn isn’t in the Villa side they are poorer because of it.
On top of all his attributes mentioned above, my god can he strike a ball.
He has scored some unbelievable goals in his time and is only 26, with years ahead of him yet.
One other shout out in the piece has to go to Steve Bruce.
He may get flack, he may have failed overall at some clubs, but he’s the man who not only discovered McGinn but also Andy Robertson at Hull as well, and look where he ended up.
It was probably a scout who found the pair but Bruce stuck his neck out to sign them and you’ve got to give him huge credit for that.
At the age of 26 he has 29 caps in the bag and you wouldn’t bet against him doubling that.
Villa have had a great season and if it goes one step further you can also bet that a huge part of it will be down to their Scottish midfield engine.