Jack Grealish has dominated the limelight at Aston Villa this season. Boyhood Villa fan turned captain and a creative English midfielder coveted by a variety of Premier League clubs, the narratives have been quite simply too tempting to resist.
But that has allowed the other standout midfield talent in this Villa team to seep under the radar. John McGinn arrived at Villa Park last summer and has been as crucial as Grealish in their push for promotion – it just so happens he plays directly alongside a young player who everybody, for one reason or another, appears to have a vested interest in.
McGinn was the Man of the Match at Wembley on Monday as Villa secured promotion with a 2-1 victory over Derby County through a performance that defined much of his first season with the Birmingham-based outfit. By no means his best display of the campaign, the Scotland international still created the most chances and made the joint-most tackles of any Villa player, while scoring what proved to be the winner.
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Again, McGinn has netted more illustrious strikes this season – seven in the Championship alongside nine assists – but this goal was all about grit and determination, rushing into the box and rising to a loose, looping ball just in time to beat Kelle Roos to it. For a club with as much potential as Villa, it was a massive goal.
McGinn’s performance will no doubt gain some more attention than his expert displays have received for much of the season, but the good news for Villa is that he’s still very much their secret weapon. Top flight clubs will focus on Grealish next season as this team’s beating heart and talismanic influence, yet McGinn has proved he’s just as capable of being Villa’s driving force.
Premier League be warned; there are two quality midfielders at Aston Villa – ignore either at your peril.