INTERVIEW: McGinn grafts to be back match fit for Aberdeen

Aberdeen's Niall McGinn.

Returning Don Niall McGinn has swapped the Golden Gate Bridge for the golden sands of Dubai this winter to ensure he hits the second half of the season with a bang.

The Northern Ireland international is sweating it out with Aberdeen at their warm weather training camp having returned to the club on a long-term deal until 2021.

Last January winger McGinn missed out on the Middle East camp. Boss Derek McInnes granted him a break because he had little time off in the summer due to his participation in the Euro 2016 finals.

The 30-year-old made the most of the down time by jetting to San Francisco while his team-mates sweated it out in the United Arab Emirates.

This year McGinn, who is working with the Reds physios out here, is ready to use Dubai to get sharp in a race to be match fit for a second Dons debut against St Mirren in the Scottish Cup next Saturday.

McGinn said: “I didn’t go to Dubai last year as the manager gave me a couple of weeks off.

“I hadn’t had much of a break in the previous four or five years.

“The manager looked after me that time by not taking me to Dubai and I went out to America as my best mate lives out there.

“We did a bit of touring and it was a brilliant time.

“We did the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz and travelled from San Francisco to Los Angeles and took in San Diego and Santa Barbara.

“I had some down time to enjoy myself then got right back into it after that break.

“The winter break last year helped me massively as I hit the ground running when I came back and scored a couple of goals in the Scottish Cup (4-0 win over Stranraer).

“I scored a few goals after that, which was pleasing for me, so I will be looking to do something similar this time after Dubai.”

Following that trip to the American West Coast, McGinn returned refreshed and revitalised and netted four goals in the first two games.

He followed up the double against Stranraer with two in the 3-0 league win over Dundee at Pittodrie.

The winger underwent a procedure on a hernia a month ago and is unlikely to feature against Uzbekistan side Lokomotiv Tashkent in a friendly at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence on Sunday.

Boss Derek McInnes confirmed it is still up in the air if McGinn will be ready to face St Mirren, but he hopes the warm weather camp can accelerate his progress.

Having terminated his contract with Gwangju in South Korea, the winger officially returned to Pittodrie on January 1, just seven months after leaving.

In the winter window, which ends on January 31, McInnes has also secured midfielder Chidi Nwakali on loan from Manchester City until the end of the season, pending a work permit.

While his Dons team-mates enjoyed a week off following the 0-0 draw with Hearts on December 30, McGinn grafted on his own to get match fit.

He said: “Being realistic it is going to take a number of games to get back up to match speed but it is something I am looking forward to.

“I am using the winter break to get as fit as I possibly can.

“I had been working with the Northern Ireland physio and doctor during my time off and I was just glad I got that done (hernia operation) at the start of December.

“Now I am looking forward to playing again for Aberdeen.

“The break came at a nice time as the players had obviously worked very hard and got the chance to enjoy some time off.

“For me I had my time off before that for about four weeks. It was nice to be off at Christmas and home for the first time since I moved away 10 years ago.

“That allowed me to recharge my batteries and now I am going to use the winter break to get my fitness back up to scratch.

“The heat in Dubai is great but the most important thing is to work hard.

“I will knuckle down to get back in that red shirt again very soon.

“I just want to get back to what I did in my previous time at Aberdeen, scoring goals and creating chances for team-mates.

“We have the Scottish cup tie against St Mirren coming up and I am looking forward to getting back into it and being involved in that.”

He insists working with manager Derek McInnes and playing in front of the Red Army were pivotal in that decision to return.

Whether McInnes would have been at Pittodrie going into 2018 hung in the balance when Rangers made a formal approach to talk to the 46-year-old last month.

Ultimately McInnes, who had played such a key role in McGinn’s career, knocked back the Ibrox club.

McGinn said: “I was delighted that the manager decided to stay and that was a major part of my reason for coming back to Aberdeen.

“He has been the manager who has got the best from me and someone I have really enjoyed working with over the years.

“I feel the four years I had under the manager at Aberdeen were probably the best I had in my career.

“He definitely got the best out of me so I am looking forward to working with him again.

“Since the manager came in the door the club have gone from strength to strength.

“They have won a trophy, reached finals, consistently finished second in the league and qualified for Europe.

“The club are moving forward all the time and I am over the moon to come back and be part of that as well.”

McGinn aims to be ready for the Scottish Cup tie and is relishing the opportunity to hear the Red Army’s homage to his skills about how he made Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo look “ordinary” while starring for Northern Ireland.

He said: “The Aberdeen fans have been incredible and I am looking forward to playing in front of them again. They have been great to me.

“As a player having those songs about you gives you a lift and shows the appreciation the fans have.”