Stephen McGinn on his crocked knee hell, new-look team and 'strange' first season at Falkirk
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The 34-year-old midfielder has been absent since playing in all four of the Bairns Viaplay Cup group stage matches, and he has now since had specialist surgery to fix a crocked knee that forced him to give up trying to soldier on through the pain barrier.
"It is really frustrating,” McGinn told the Falkirk Herald. “I enjoyed pre-season and I came through it fine. Then, going into the League Cup matches, we started to play a really nice style of football again and you could see it was building into the second version of the gaffers team.
“But within the League Cup campaign I started to pick up this problem and it was one of them, you pretend it isn’t there and you try to play on but it wasn’t happening and I knew it was going to something medium to long term.
“The club have been brilliant. They rushed me through for an operation with the best people to get it fixed and I think it will buy me a couple of games. I’ll be back sooner because the club reacted so quickly.
“It will be a battle to win a place in the team too, we are playing so well and the midfield is full of quality. The gaffer has brought in excellent footballers who have taken us up a level. If we keen on winning then I am happy no matter what, the club going up this season is all that matters.”
On Falkirk’s new-look squad, which has saw a handful of players who have played under boss John McGlynn before join the club this summer, McGinn believes that the quality of the squad has increased ten-fold.
He praised the management team for brining in players that ‘you would hate to play against’ if they were lining up against you.
“Brad Spencer is one of the best midfielders in the Championship yet alone League 1,” McGinn explained. “Alfredo Agyeman took points from us last season. He was a real thorn in our side and he is so direct. Those are the type of players you want to see in your team rather than the opposition one.
“When you start to sign players you really didn’t enjoy playing against, then that is a good sign. Ross MacIver was really difficult to play against for Alloa. He left me unconscious last season! He is a real physical presence.
“We are getting carried away but we have started strongly. We spoke about that; how we couldn’t start similar to last season."
Despite a Hampden Scottish Cup semi-final trip, and a season that saw the Bairns impress on many occasions, it was a season that ultimately ended in huge disappointment and anger after the 7-2 drubbing to Airdrie on aggregate in the promotion play-offs, coupled with the side’s failings to show up on the big stage.
On his first season at Falkirk after leaving Kilmarnock, McGinn revealed that the pain of not achieving the ultimate goal of promotion has given his year’s group extra fuel to put things right.
“Last season was strange,” he said. “We gave the fans a big day out at Hampden but we fell short and we didn’t do what we set out to do – win the division, and that means it wasn’t a success.
"It was special to see generations of Falkirk fans make that Hampden trip but the play-offs hit hard. It was a horrendous experience but I can tell you that we are using that pain now to fuel us on.”
This weekend sees Falkirk face Queen’s Park in the SPFL Trust Trophy round of 16 at home, with McGlynn’s side setting up the tie against Robin Veldman’s team after a 1-0 win at Ayr United in the previous round.
Going into that tie, which takes place on Saturday at 3pm, captain McGinn reckons the Bairns have a great chance of reaching the quarter-finals despite facing another Championship team.
He said: “It is a cliché but all we wanted was a home tie. We know how strong we can be at home and it is an exciting tie on paper. We know Queen’s Park are in the division above but we have already beaten a Championship side this season. They are a young team who try to play football like us – it is a tie I think we can get through.
“I know for a fact some of the boys would have actually liked an away tie for this one mind you with Queen’s Park playing at Hampden but the gaffer (John McGlynn) will be happy with the home tie. We avoided the New Saints away which was probably the one you wanted to steer clear off when it came out.”Stephen McGinn was speaking at an SPFL Trust Trophy pre-round press conference held at Hampden Park.