MATIJA SARKIC watched John McGinn arrive at Aston Villa training as a relative unknown.
Twelve months later, a £50 million price tag has been slapped on the Scotland ace.
Now Sarkic is determined to use his own stint in the Premiership as a springboard to stardom after revealing his loan switch to Livingston received the McGinn seal of approval.
The 23-year-old goalkeeper was part of the senior set-up at Villa last term and was dazzled by the impact made by the former Hibs hero.
McGinn is the new darling of the Holte End after emerging as a talisman during their successful bid to win promotion to the English Premier League, scoring in the playoff final against Derby at Wembley and claiming Villa’s player of the year award.
His progress has reportedly caught the eye of Manchester United, who could be ready to shell out an eye-watering transfer fee to tempt him to Old Trafford. And Serkic reckons the meteoric progress of McGinn illustrates that the SPFL can be the perfect breeding ground for young talent.
He said: “Performing well in the Premiership can launch your career and you don’t need to look much further than John McGinn for that.
“He did amazingly well for Hibs, got his move to Villa and is now flying and in the Premier League. I’m hoping to do the same thing – prove myself at this level and then go back to Villa and challenge for a place in the team.”
He added: “I saw John being valued at £50 million the other day, which just shows how far you can go.
“I trained with senior team at Villa every day so I know all the lads really well and John is as an absolutely top guy.
“He actually sent me a message when I joined Livingston to wish me luck and saying what a good opportunity it is. And he told me all about Marvin Bartley, who was a big mate of his at Hibs!
“To be fair, I already get on really well with Big Marv and the three of us have had a bit of banter in the group chat.”
With just a handful of senior appearances under his belt during loan stints with Stratford Town and Havant & Waterlooville, Serkic is embarking on the biggest campaign of his career to date.
However, he reckons his international exploits prove that he can handle the heat.
Serkic boasts six caps for Montenegro’s under-21 side and among those outings were narrow defeats to a France side which boasted Celtic stars past and present, Moussa Dembele and Olivier Ntcham, as well as eventual World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard.
He continued: “We faced France twice and, although we lost narrowly, I think I did myself justice and I take a lot of confidence from doing well against guys of that calibre.
“Moussa Dembele, who was up here with Celtic, and (Olivier) Ntcham, who still is, were in that France side.
“You want to test yourself against guys of that ability, make saves and show what you can do. I thrive on being the underdog and knowing I’ll have a lot to do.”
Serkic is acutely aware that he has big gloves to fill following the departure of Liam Kelly but, displaying a healthy swagger, reckons he can be even BETTER than the man who joined QPR last month.
Speaking from Livi’s training camp in Budapest, Sarkic added: “You need to believe in yourself and I do, 100 per cent. I think I can replicate what Liam Kelly did, and more.
“But I know my first challenge is to get that jersey because Ross [Stewart] is a top keeper. The manager wants competition for places and he wants difficult decisions to make.
“That healthy rivalry is better for the team. We’ll push each other to our limits. I know I’m ready to work harder and perform better, as will Ross, and that can only be good for Livingston.”