BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HIBS star Efe Ambrose insists John McGinn has the attitude and ability to be a smash hit at Celtic if he completes a summer switch to the champions.
No player at Easter Road knows the suffocating pressure and lofty expectations which go hand-in-hand with the lavish rewards of pulling on the Hoops better than the affable Nigerian.
Ambrose enjoyed soaring highs during five largely successful years in Glasgow, claiming six major honours, registering an iconic victory against Barcelona and reaching the last-16 of the Champions League.
However, Ambrose has no doubt in his mind that, should Hibs agree terms with their Parkhead counterparts, McGinn will meet the challenge of becoming a mainstay with Brendan Rodgers’ double treble winners.
“I think John can make the step up,” said the 29-year-old. “He has the quality and the ability to succeed at Celtic.
“He knows the stature of the club so I don’t need to say much about it, but if he does get there then he will need to fight for his place because it’s not easy at a club like Celtic.
“There are quality players all around you and they will all want to play. So he will have to fight.
“Celtic is a place that comes with huge responsibility and the fans are special. If he does join them, then that is just football and we would wish him well. He can succeed there.”
Celtic saw an initial bid for the Scotland star, believed to be in the region of £1.5 million, rejected on Monday evening but fully intend to test Hibs’ resolve with a second swoop.
McGinn has just 12 months to run on his current deal, making Neil Lennon’s initial valuation of £5 million somewhat optimistic. Nevertheless, the Easter Road hierarchy are determined to get what they deem to be top dollar for their prize asset.
“I am not surprised to see Celtic come in for a player of John’s quality,” continued Ambrose. “It’s been in the papers for a long time. The most important thing is he has done so well for this club and he has helped put us in the position that we are in today.
“It’s a big compliment to Hibs that Celtic are looking here for players. When you are doing well people look at you and this squad did well last season.”
It remains to be seen whether McGinn is part of the Hibs side that lines up against NSI Runavik at Easter Road next Thursday as they embark on their Europa League campaign. A second qualifying round tie against Asteras Tripolis or Greece awaits the victor.
A low-key clash with the Faroe Island minnows could barely be more of a juxtaposition from glamour ties against Barca, Juve or Milan.
Nevertheless, Ambrose, a veteran continental campaigner, will be approaching the fixture with the same levels of professionalism as he seeks to help Hibs become the first side out-with the Old Firm to reach a group phase in European competition since Aberdeen in 2007/08.
“Our goal is to try and get into the group stages,” continued Ambrose. “We know the test that lies ahead of us and we will be prepared mentally and physically. I believe that we can do it.
“I played in that Celtic team that beat Barcelona and did very well in the Champions League. So anything is possible under this manager [Lennon]. The manager always says that, because he believes in his qualities and in what he has at this club.
“He is very experienced and he knows the European game.
Every effort we put into last season was to reach this first step so we need to start on the front foot.”
Allied with their European adventures, Hibs are desperate to improve upon a hugely impressive fourth-place finish in their maiden campaign in the top-flight following promotion and, despite looming departures, Ambrose’s ambitions have not become more modest.
“The history behind the club is great, it’s just like Celtic,” he added. “That’s why I am here. I want to challenge for trophies and finish in the top four in the country. This is a place where I can improve and achieve and keep playing at the top level. That’s why I am here.”