John McGinn is loving being “back to 100 per cent” amid Aston Villa’s superb start to the Premier League season.
The midfielder spent six months recovering from an ankle injury last term before returning for the delayed conclusion and helping Villa avoid relegation.
This season Dean Smith’s men have won each of their opening four league games – the first time the club have achieved that since 1930-31 – and McGinn has contributed four assists and a goal.
Ahead of Friday’s home clash with Leeds, McGinn said on Villa’s official website: “I knew post-lockdown that criticism would come. I wasn’t going out there to play for myself, I was going out there to try and help Villa stay in the league.
“The manager knew that, I knew that and everyone around me knew that I wasn’t going to be anywhere near the player I know I can be.
“The main thing at the time was not for me, it was if I could bring 60-70 per cent of what I can be and maybe pop up with a goal or assist.
“I spent the summer trying to become pain-free because for a long, long time I was in pain. It’s great to be running around without pain, and I’m loving the fact that I’m back to 100 per cent.”
The Scotland international added: “The humility needs to stay and we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We’ve got 12 points now and 28 more points will get us safe, and then we can move on from there.
“In the first season (back in the top-flight, last term) we probably tried to look a bit too far ahead too soon. It’s an exciting time to be a part of Aston Villa and hopefully that can continue.”
Villa face a Leeds outfit who have claimed seven points from five games so far following their promotion.
“I think I speak for most Premier League teams when I say that Leeds is one of the most difficult fixtures on the calendar,” McGinn said.
“You need a couple of days off after you’ve played them but hopefully they’ll be tired from their game against Wolves (a 1-0 loss on Monday).”
The sides meet for the first time since the memorable 1-1 Elland Road draw in April 2019, when Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa instructed his players to let Smith’s visitors walk in an equaliser.
At his press conference ahead of Friday’s match, Smith said of his counterpart: “I have total admiration and respect for him and what he and his team have done.
“I sent him a congratulatory message when they got promoted. He’s improved players at that club and is rightly getting plaudits.
“I’ve seen all five of their games so far. They will win more games than they lose this season. I don’t see them being in a relegation scrap at the end of the season. They’re the fittest team in the league.”
Smith has also spoken about Henri Lansbury being left out of Villa’s Premier League squad.
“It’s been tough for Henri,” Smith said. “He’s a really likeable character and a good footballer, but there’s just been too many injuries and players in front of him at the moment.
“He was looking in the window to try to get a move out and it didn’t happen, but we’ve brought in Ross Barkley and other players. Hence, he’s not in the 25-man squad.”