Sheffield United: McGinn bounces back

Sheffield United's Stephen McGinn, whose two brothers are also footballers, hails from a strong sporting family � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Sheffield United's Stephen McGinn, whose two brothers are also footballers, hails from a strong sporting family � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
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It sounds like the brainchild of Alan Partridge, writes James Shield. But forget inner-city sumo or monkey tennis. Trampoline football is deadly serious stuff.

“It’s a mix of things really,” Stephen McGinn, explaining the bizarre game which helped launch a sporting dynasty, said. “Boxing, wrestling, footy and a whole lot else.

“We used to bounce around on the one we had in the garden at our house when I was little and knock hell out of each other. But you did it with a ball.

“There weren’t really any rules but we had a big family and loads of them, well all of us kids at least, used to come around and play it.

“I used to have a go although not as much as my brothers. Because I’m the oldest, my mum used to get worried that I’d break it.

“They used to swear by it though. Reckoned it helped improve their balance and technique.”

McGinn, who joined Sheffield United from Watford earlier this summer, now prefers tormenting League One defenders rather than siblings John, a promising midfielder with his former club St Mirren, and Dumbarton defender Paul. But the former Scotland under-21 international, whose grandfather Jack served on the boards of both Celtic and the SFA, told The Star how those summer afternoons in Clydebank still influence his career.

“There’s a rivalry between me and my brothers. But it’s a good rivalry and I love them to bits.

“Whenever we meet up, we still want to ‘out-do’ each other at everything. But we also want each other to do well.

“I went to watch John in the Scottish League Cup final last season and I was so proud of him. It also made me think, seeing him out there having success, how I’d love to experience that too.

“I thought ‘I fancy a bit of that’ which drives me on now.”

McGinn, aged 24, seemed destined for really big things when he swapped Paisley for Vicarage Road three years ago.

Thirteen months after arriving in Hertfordshire, though, a serious knee injury sustained during a Championship fixture at Doncaster Rovers halted a career which, until then, had been on a steep upward curve.

“It was a tough time because you make so many sacrifices to become a footballer,” McGinn continued. “Then, when you make your debut, it’s just a sense of relief. I scored on mine against Celtic and I remember thinking ‘It’s never going to get any better than this.’

“But then you realise you’ve got to kick-on and work just as hard in the next game. Never stand still.

“You’ve got to drive yourself forward all the time. Always be striving to improve.

“It’s probably a much tougher environment than quite a few people think. I’m not complaining though, because we still have a great life and are lucky to be doing something we enjoy.

“But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

“After I got injured the manager (Malky Mackay) down there said I’d been playing my best football ever. I remembered those words and the memory helped me get through.”

That and his west of Scotland upbringing.

“One of the reasons I think the area produces so many footballers is because that’s all we do,” McGinn said. “There’s no cricket, no rugby, no golf, just football so that’s the only thing we do in PE at school.

“There’s also a lot of tough areas around Glasgow and, for a lot of lads, becoming a professional is a way out. There’s a real edge and determination to succeed among lads from there.”

With a Scottish manager - David Weir - and a large Caledonian contingent in United’s squad, McGinn, who hopes to feature against Bradford City tomorrow, revealed Bramall Lane immediately felt like home.

“I’m loving it here and I’m proud to be at a great club like United,” he said. “Everyone gets on and of course there’s a lot of banter between us Scots.

“Jamie (Murphy) is a massive Rangers fan. You’ll never see him wearing a green bib in training, seriously.

“Obviously I’m Celtic so I’m always chipping away at him. But he’s really quiet because there’s not a lot he can come back with at the moment is there.”

“I don’t really remember my grandad being chairman at Celtic,” McGinn added. “More when he was president with the Scottish Football Association.

“The good thing was we used to get tickets to go and see all the big games.

“When I was at Watford I took a few lads up to watch an Old Firm match and they couldn’t get over how intense it was.

“The gaffer obviously played for Rangers and, when you play for them or Celtic, you are expected to win all the time. They can’t dwell too much when things go well because they’ve got to go out and get a result again.

“That’s a good lesson for any footballer and it’s something I’ve tried to adopt.”

McGinn, who made 42 appearances for Watford, enjoyed a spell on loan at Shrewsbury Town before United recruited him on a two year contract with the option of a third. His positional sense and ability to pick a pass could make him a candidate for the attacking midfield role recently vacated by Kevin McDonald.

“All my focus is on doing well for us, for Sheffield United,” McGinn said. “And this is an important move for me.

“I want to establish myself here and kick-on. There’s a good feeling around the place so hopefully I can keep on improving and contribute.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1