Express & Star

Steve Bruce: John McGinn destined to become Aston Villa fan favourite

Steve Bruce tipped John McGinn to become a crowd favourite after the midfielder enjoyed an excellent debut in Villa’s 3-2 win over Wigan.


Birkir Bjarnason netted a dramatic late winner as Villa opened the season with back-to-back wins for the first time since 1999.

But it was Scotland international who shone on his Villa Park bow. The Scotland international put in an all-action performance, delivering the free-kick from which James Chester opened the scoring and then a corner where Latics defender Chey Dunkley put through his own net, after goals from Nick Powell and Callum Connolly had put the visitors ahead.

McGinn joined Villa in a £2.75million move from Hibernian in midweek and Bruce said: “It’s a smashing debut - he’s going to be a crowd favourite.

“You can understand why. He’s got that bit of something about him when he tackles, it means something to him.

“He’s strong, powerfully built, a fierce competitor and we’re delighted we’ve been able to get him over the line.

“He produced a free-kick, it’s what he’s got in the locker. He gives us a nice balance and lets Jack Grealish go and do what he has to do.”

Grealish also impressed in his first game since the closing of the transfer window.

The 22-year-old ace, who had been tipped to leave Villa for much of the summer, was embraced by Bruce at the final whistle.

“I just said well done, it was an instantaneous thing,” said the boss

“It’s been a difficult time for him, with all the speculation and all the stuff. He’s reacted in the right way and conducted himself really well so all I said was well done, fantastic.

“There’s nothing like one of their own, is there? And he is that. So let’s never forget it.

“He’s one of them, he’s been standing up there since he was six years old, so it means something to him.”

Bruce added: “Considering what’s gone on, I have to say the way he and his family have conducted themselves, the way he has gone about his work today, he’s been a breath of fresh air.

“[The way he performed] Today was the reason Premier League teams want to buy him.

“He oozes that little bit of class which was there, pretty evident. You’d come and watch him alone, wouldn’t you?

“He’s such a natural footballer, you’d come and pay good money to come and just watch him.”

Victory came after Bruce made six changes from the team which won 3-1 at Hull on Monday night.

He explained: “One thing I did do last year was I didn’t think I used the squad well enough at times.

“I know it’s still early but we’ve got eight games coming up and to get up and running the squad needs to get games under their belt.

“It’s pretty drastic - you could have come in and slaughtered me if it hadn’t worked.

“I’m okay for the moment because we won, but it was a big call because it’s not me.

“I just felt against Wigan we needed to be stronger, and a bit more direct than what we were the other night.”