Hibs midfielder John McGinn has revealed he made the Dundee United clash his target immediately after waking up from his ankle operation – despite being warned not to be ‘stupid’ by the surgeon.
The Scotland internationalist marked his seven week lay-off with a fantastic solo effort in a 12 minute cameo appearance in Friday’s 3-0 trashing of their Championship title rivals.
McGinn had initially been told by surgeon Graham Lawson that he could need up to 12 weeks of rehabilitation after having a calcified bone ‘hook’ on his ankle shaved off.
But the former St Mirren player was determined to get back earlier and help his team-mates in the race for the chequered flag.
McGinn, who only trained with his team-mates for 20 minutes before helping the side move four points clear at the summit on Friday, said: “I made the Dundee United game my target pretty much once the drugs wore off after the operation. I had my eye on it.
“I got told, initially, not to be stupid by the surgeon Graham Lawson.
“Ever since I had the operation, the surgeon was telling me eight to 12 weeks. I was thinking: ‘I’m young, I’m a quicker healer so let’s aim for sooner’.
“It was a very complex operation. I had a bit like a hook outside of my left leg and ot was really painful every time that I hit the ball with my left foot.
“But the physio kind of whispered in my ear and said we’d hopefully get me back sooner.
“I’m a determined boy and I was keeping on at the physios and saying how much I wanted back for that game, I knew it was a big game.
“That’s been six weeks since the operation. I went to see a surgeon last week and he wasn’t sure. But when he said you can play a small part in the game I was over the moon.
“A big thanks to him for letting me go out and play, he is one of the top surgeons and I’m delighted he gave me the all clear.
“I held on to that and thankfully the manager gave me 15 minutes to go out there and play.
“Hopefully I can kick on next week at Dumbarton and play a little bit longer.”
McGinn ran on to the pitch to a deafening welcome from the majority of the 18,786 supporters inside Easter Road and the fans favourite celebrated his return with a goal, forcing his way past Scott Fraser before beating Cammy Bell from a tight angle.
He added: “I never imagined myself scoring and normally in those sort of positions I get a nose bleed but I was a bit more composed and I saw his legs opening and put the ball through.
“I warmed up last week on the pitch at Falkirk just to get a touch of the ball and feeling involved again, I’ve missed it a lot.
“I love my football and it’s been hard not being able to play. It was good to get back out in the warm-up and it felt as if I was getting closer.”
McGinn’s return to action will also come as a boost to Scotland ahead of the return to World Cup qualifying action against Slovenia in March.
National team manager Gordon Strachan was an interested spectator at Easter Road but had left by the time McGinn slotted home.
“The manager knows what I can do,” added McGinn. It’s just up to myself to keep performing and hopefully I can stay in his plans.”
The Hibs players were dropping like flies in November after Lennon was left with a midfield injury crisis as McGinn, Fraser Fvyie, Alex Harris and Danny Handling were all sidelined, as was goalkeeper Ofir Marciano.
But Lennon has made reinforcements. Kris Commons was recruited on an initial one-month loan from Celtic last month, while former Motherwell winger Chris Humphrey shone on his debut against United and set up Jason Cummings for his second goal.
McGinn added: “It was tough time for us but the boys but we still managed to stay on top so it’s good that I’m back now, Fraser is close too.
“We had a really strong squad against United. Chris is an excellent signing, Kris Commons was feeling a bit ill so big credit to him for playing as long as he did.
“Even on the bench we had Andrew Shinnie, Brian Graham and Grant Holt, all top quality players. So it’s only healthy for the squad.
“That was the best we’ve played all season and hopefully that can put a marker down to the rest of the division that it’s not going to be an easy game when you play Hibs.”