Dean Smith was full of praise for John McGinn after Aston Villa’s 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest, calling the midfielder Villa’s “most consistent performer” this season.
Smith said to Villa’s official website: “He’s been our most consistent performer all season so it’s been very difficult to leave him out of the team, especially with how well he’s been doing.
The 24-year-old was returning from a two-game suspension after picking up 10 yellow cards and was a doubt to start the game after being benched against Birmingham City on Sunday.
Smith replaced Whelan for McGinn and his decision was vindicated with the midfielder scoring twice at the City Ground and being named man-of-the-match as Villa sealed their third consecutive league win. They’re now just two points off the playoffs with nine games remaining.
McGinn has enjoyed a dream debut campaign since joining from Hibernian last summer, contributing 11 goals in 32 Championship games. He’s averaged a tackle (70) or interception (31) every 27 minutes in the Championship while creating 56 chances and making 53 successful dribbles.
The Scottish international should keep his place in the side for Saturday’s meeting with Middlesbrough. Villa currently sit eighth in the Championship with 54 points from 37 games and could move into the playoffs with a win over the weekend.
Despite being dropped, Whelan still has a place in the side. He’s racked up 26 league appearances this season and has missed only one game since November. The 35-year-old is ahead of Mile Jedinak, Birkir Bjarnason and Tom Carroll in the pecking order.