John McGinn has arguably been Aston Villa’s best player this season, and despite the 4-0 win against Derby County last time out and the fact the was returning from a two-match ban, it was still something of a surprise to see him ast on the substitutes’ bench against Birmingham City on Sunday.
Because of the quality he has on the ball and the fact he has that bite and is willing to put his body on the line for his side, he looked to be ready-made for the short trip across England’s second city.
However, Dean Smith decided to snub him and stick with the trio – Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane and Jack Grealish – who helped down the Rams and also aided the keeping of a clean sheet, which has been a rarity for the Midlands outfit this term.
With the visitors struggling to break down Garry Monk’s men at the weekend in what was largely a scrappy derby affair – of course overshadowed by the incident involving Grealish and a Blues fan – McGinn was introduced in the 62nd minute in place of Whelan to bring that little something extra seeing as he has eight assists to his name this term.
He quickly made a big impact in the final third for the Villans, and despite his limited time on the St Andrew’s pitch his post-match statistics were very impressive and highlighted why he has been such a bargain buy.
The 24-year-old had one shot, successfully completed two dribbles and made two key passes as Villa turned the screw, and of course they eventually got their breakthrough as the man who was attacked early on found the net to leave the team just four points adrift of the Championship play-off positions.
Villa face fellow promotion hopefuls Nottingham Forest at The City Ground on Wednesday night as they look to move a step closer to the top six, and McGinn’s latest display has certainly given Smith lots to think about.
Don’t be surprised to see him back in the starting XI, even if competition for places is rife at the minute with Grealish and Conor Hourihane performing so well.