Efe Ambrose lavishes praise on Celtic target John McGinn as midfielder leads Hibs Europa League charge



EFE AMBROSE knows how easy it is to become distracted by high-profile suitors. He saw it happen first-hand at Celtic.

As a consequence, the Hibernian star has nothing but respect for the professionalism of John McGinn as the in-demand midfielder lads their Europa League charge.

McGinn, 23, was in irrepressible form for the Hibees against Asteras Tripolis on Thursday night, taking the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half to inspire a remarkable 3-2 triumph, having been 2-0 down at the interval.

(Pic: Hibs TV)

It was the type of performance that further emphasises why Celtic, who have seen three bids rejected – £1.5m, £1.75m and £2m – are so keen to take the Scotland internationalist west this summer.

He also notched a goal and two assists in Hibs 6-4 win over Runavik in the Faroe Islands in his first outing this term, brushing off the furore surrounding his future.

Ex-Hoops defender Ambrose has no doubt McGinn is destined to ‘get what he deserves’ and, with a swathe of scouts from south of the border in attendance at Easter Road, he would not be surprised to see rivals to Celtic emerge for his signature.

In the meantime, however, he reckons focusing on football is imperative.

“It was difficult at the start for John,” said Ambrose. “But this is part of football. Speculation is something you need to deal with, especially when a great team and opportunity comes in. Everything can be a little up and down.

“I’ve been in teams where a player is affected by this. I’ve seen that at Celtic – and you need to be strong.

“However, he is such a good guy with a great mentality – and he knows his time will come when it comes. I think he understands football, he understands the game and the way it works. The most important thing for him is to keep playing and helping the team.

“He is a big player for this team, a great leader and he helps to motivate the boys, so we are delighted to have him back in the team.

“If Celtic or some other teams are going to come, then so be it, but he can’t just sit down waiting. He needs to play and improve himself. The more he plays, the more people see him and the more clubs are aware of him.

“He’s been doing great since coming back into the team. So I think everybody will be watching him, not just Celtic.

“He’s patient. The most important thing for him to know is: when you are patient, you get what you really deserve. I think he’s going to get what he deserves with Celtic or some other team that comes in for him. In time, he’s going to get the best.”

While McGinn was the dynamo, it was Ambrose who sparked a raucous revival against their Greek rivals, scrambling home from a corner-kick by the also-excellent Stevie Mallan to make it 2-1. Skipper David Gray then rattled home an equaliser before Flo Kamberi’s 93rd-minute winner.

Even as a man who has represented Celtic in the Champions League last-16 and defeated Barcelona, it was a night that left Ambrose stunned.

“Wow! That’s all I can say,” he smiled. “That was one of the most special European games for me. It’s not easy to come back from 2-0 down with the pressure to win at home – but we knew we could come back.

“The mentality and character in the team is good. No matter what happens, we still believe. That’s the important thing we have in this team. We never give up.”

Including the 5-5 draw which brought the curtain down on their Premiership campaign last term, Hibs have scored 20 goals in their last four competitive fixtures, conceding 12. It is little surprise that the capital club have no intention of shutting up shop in Tripolis.

He added: “We are going there to win. That’s the mentality. Going there to defend is not us, we are not about defending. Let’s go to attack and make sure we get the win.”

They will, however, need to do that without Lennon on the touchline after the Hibs boss was hit with an additional one-match ban due to a Uefa delegate spotting him ‘coaching’ from the stands, using gestures, in their 6-1 win over Runavik at Easter Road.

It was a decision Lennon decried as ‘scandalous’, however Ambrose is determined to ensure the blow does not prove devastating.

“You can still hear him from the stands, anyway!” laughed the Nigerian internationalist. “No, the most important thing is he sets up how he wants us to play on the training ground and we will work hard on that.

“His presence on the bench would be extra motivation for us, but we still know he’s with us. His presence is always there, you can still feel it. We can still do it. With him on the bench or not, we owe it to ourselves, the coach and the fans to go through this tie.”