John McGinn admits seeing brother Stephen brutally axed by St Mirren makes him appreciate what he’s got in his own career.
The £30million-rated Aston Villa star is living the football high life in the cash-rich Premier League and preparing for a return from injury when the English top flight kicks off again in 10 days’ time.
But he is angry and hurt at the treatment suffered by the oldest of the three McGinn siblings after the Buddies binned their former skipper last week.
Stephen rejected Scottish Premiership offers to answer the Paisley side’s call and help stop them dropping into League One when he joined from Wycombe Wanderers three years ago.
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So being axed was a hard to take, especially after the recent arrival of 10-week-old daughter Hannah, but John has backed him to bounce back from the disappointment.
The Scotland international admits he would have a cheek if he finds himself moaning with the eyes of the world set to be on the midfielder when he faces Sheffield United in the first Premier League game back on June 17.
While Stephen has been released middle brother Paul is also idle after the Scottish Premiership was called early.
John said: “The situation Stephen is in is never nice and it doesn’t sit too well with me after what he’s done for St Mirren. He’s hurting and we’re all hurting for him but I’m sure he’ll be back playing football soon and will prove everyone wrong.
“I know football is like that and he had injuries but I’ll take it back to when he joined them and St Mirren were rooted at the foot of the Championship, right up against it.
“He had choices and the chance to go to the Premiership.
“I remember advising him to stay at as high a level as possible and he said: ‘No, I played with Jack Ross, St Mirren gave me a chance so I’m going back there to help out and get my love for football back again.’
“And every St Mirren fan will tell you that he single- handedly dragged the club to safety that season.
“It’s a difficult one in the current climate.
“I know Stephen has a brilliant relationship with everyone there and loyalty is a really difficult topic in football.
“There are so many ways you can look at it and obviously I have a bias towards my brother.
“But it did hurt a little bit and it would be exactly the same if it was Paul at Hibs.
“We’ve had our ups and downs before and we’re all capable of coming back from it.
“The main thing is Stephen has still got the hunger to play and stopping hasn’t even crossed his mind.
“I’m sure whoever gets him will be getting a top player with a lot of experience.
“I’ve been doing a few Q&As and they ask who my role model was growing up watching football.
“Up until I was about 17 it would be the obvious ones.
“Then Stephen started playing in St Mirren’s first team and I was obsessed with Saints. I went home and away, everywhere with the diehards and then it followed on with Watford.
“But both of my brothers have been an influence because the journeys they’ve been on have been so different.
“Stephen didn’t have as many setbacks as Paul did early in his career. I remember Paul not being able to go to many of our games because he was either playing for an amateur team or Queen’s Park while he was working.
“People had told him there was no way he could play higher up.
“The fact he’s now playing in the Premiership at Hibs inspires me.
“If I complain about things or grumble I have them saying they would swap me! I’m very fortunate to have that beside me. It’s not usual to have brothers who have all played in the top flight and I don’t think I could be as mentally strong without them there.”
The birth of baby daughter Hannah has made things more difficult for Stephen and his wife Ashley during lockdown.
John said: “That’s keeping him fit, running around.
“It’s strange. Seeing a newborn on Facetime is not the same as holding her, so in that respect
“It’s also hard for my mum and dad, who are desperate to go and give her a cuddle, but we’re not allowed.”
McGinn joked he has also been keeping his distance from girlfriend Sara during lockdown so he can watch the German Bundesliga on the box.
The 25-year-old: “My girlfriend was doing a social work university course at Birmingham City Uni so that has been flung up in the air.
“It’s something she takes a keen interest in and she has always wanted to do something that she feels passionate about.
“She has been pretty good. They have been doing a lot of the classes on Zoom and letting me moan about there being no football on.
“I am just glad the German games are back on so we can socially distance in the house!
“Thankfully, she has made some friends at uni down here, which helps me on the park as well,
knowing off the park everything is settled and everyone’s happy.”