John McGinn is relishing the prospect of honing his skills against “the best players in the world” after proving his detractors wrong by firing Aston Villa into the Premier League.
Villa’s player of the season fittingly claimed the winner as his side deservedly overcame Derby 2-1 in Monday’s Sky Bet Championship play-off final.
The Scotland midfielder was keen to show he offers guile as well as graft after moving south of the border from Hibernian last summer.
“Sometimes in football you’ve got to take risks and you’ve got to challenge yourself,” said McGinn.
“Sometimes people had the perception I was just a runner, just a hard-working player; I think I am that, but I think I’ve got a lot more to my game.
“I think it had to take me coming down here to challenge myself against stronger, faster players to show that I can offer a lot more.
“I can always improve, I’ve still got a lot to learn – playing against the best players in the world is going to enhance that.
“I feel I’m different to everyone, so hopefully I can put that on show in the Premier League.”
McGinn nodded home his seventh goal of the season in the 59th minute to double the lead for Dean Smith’s side following Anwar El Ghazi’s first-half opener.
Derby substitute Jack Marriott set up a tense finish with a low strike, but Villa held on to end their three-year exile from the top flight and pocket a minimum £170million.
McGinn is looking forward to visiting the likes of Anfield and Old Trafford next term and hopes the promotion-winning squad are given the opportunity to prove their worth in the Premier League.
“Everyone’s got dreams to play at those big stadiums and now those dreams are going to be a reality,” said McGinn, who was the subject of bids from Celtic before moving to Villa Park.
“I just hope they (the club) don’t change it too much, stick with the group we’ve got now.”
McGinn’s debut appearance under the Wembley arch came two and a half years after he was denied the opportunity to play at the stadium for his country.
The 24-year-old was left in the stands for Scotland’s 3-0 World Cup qualifying defeat to England in November 2016, a bitter memory which ultimately spurred him on.
“I was gutted that night personally,” he said.
“Scotland played well actually that night, but to miss out on a shirt was gutting.
“But these things drive you on and you want to come back here and play.
“Thankfully I was a big part of it. It was a dream come true.”