Hibs boss Neil Lennon admits John McGinn still makes him happy – despite being at Aston Villa

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Scotland internationalist John McGinn may longer be plying his trade at Hibernian, however, Neil Lennon, the manager at Easter Road, insists the midfielder’s performances for Aston Villa still make him immensely happy.

The Leith outfit sold the 2016 Scottish Cup winner to the Championship club for around £3 million earlier this month and McGinn has already shown why he is so highly regarded north of the border with a string of impressive displays.

Despite the disappointment of losing a player he has described as ‘irreplaceable’, Lennon admits he took great pride in watching the 23-year-old put in another stand-out shift in Wednesday’s televised 2-2 draw against Brentford.

Liverpool’s £75 million defender Virgil Van Dijk, whom Lennon signed for Celtic, is among a host of other former players who Lennon also keeps close tabs on.

Lennon said: “I’m watching McGinn the other night full of admiration for him, he was brilliant.

“It was a great game and a really good advert for the club; they brought this player in and developed him under Stubbsy and myself and he turned out to be a really fine footballer.

“I believe the fans have really taken to him down there as well. I’m delighted for him.

“Do I take pride in seeing past players doing well? Of course, I sit and watch the likes of Van Dijk, smoking a big cigar!

“I take a huge amount of enjoyment from knowing that you’ve worked with them, you’ve brought them through, even found them.

“You have the likes of (Tottenham midfielder) Victor Wanyama, I love watching how he’s doing.

“Now there’s McGinn but there’s other players like (Southampton goalkeeper) Fraser Forster who ended up playing for England, (Derby County midfielder) Joe Ledley is still going really strong, (Scotland and Blackburn defender) Charlie Mulgrew – you get a buzz out of that, of course you do.”

Work permit

Lennon has attempted to fill a gaping midfield void left by McGinn, Dylan McGeouch and Scott Allan with the signings of Stevie Mallan, Emerson Hyndman, Daryl Horgan, Thomas Agyepong and most recently Mark Milligan.

Australian internationalist Milligan will miss Saturday’s Premiership visit of Aberdeen with the 32-year-old still Down Under as he awaits obtaining a work permit.

But after Hibs striker Jamie Maclaren, himself an Australian cap, hailed Milligan as one of his country’s best ever players, Lennon is relishing his arrival.

He added: “Mark’s not here yet, it’s just the paperwork – the work permit.

“He did his medical over there and everything is good to go, once we get the go ahead then we can get him over here.

“I’m going to put some crocodiles in the place and some cork hats, a couple of didgeridoos to make him and Maclaren feel at home.

“It was quite a glowing tribute from Jamie and I will be very pleased if I see that on the pitch this season.

“I think he’s a good player and I like his attributes. I saw him at the World Cup and he was very, very good – particularly when Australia wouldn’t have had a lot of possession.

“He is a good athlete so he will bring good experience and quality to the team.”

Rest

Flo Kamberi is a major doubt for the visit of the Dons due to a knee complaint that has restricted the Swiss to just 27 minutes of domestic action so far this term.

And Lennon concedes the marksman, who scored nine goals in 14 games on loan from Grasshoppers last season and netted a Europa League hat-trick against Runavik last month, needs an extended break to fully recover.

He added: “Flo is not 100 per cent fit. He had a scan on his knee and there is a little bit of degeneration at the back of the knee, which is not significant long term – but will require some rest eventually.

“So we have a decision to make on him and we will do that in next 24 hours.

“We might be able to wait until the international break or we may need to do it before that.

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