Aston Villa are aiming to cause a real sense of anxiety in the English Premier League.
The Midlands side get English football going again when they take on Sheffield United on Wednesday night, and winning their game in hand would see Villa jump out of the bottom three and up to 16th place.
That would certainly irritate teams like Watford, Bournemouth, West Ham and Brighton.
John McGinn will be delighted if that’s the case, and happy if he continues to be seen as a pest by opponents.
The 25-year-old may not be the silkiest player you’ll ever see, but teams can’t afford to take their eye off him.
McGinn scored his side’s first league goal of the season last August, and would love to add to his tally of three in the remaining 10 matches.
Inspiration for remaining true to his natural style comes from Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy.
He went from non-league Fleetwood to become a full England internationalist, and much of his success comes from maintaining a remarkable work-rate.
McGinn said: “Footballers always say you get more time the higher level you get to.
“I’m not sure if I believe that. You certainly get punished more.
“I think there’s a respect that you can play at that level and they are a bit more wary.
“I just try to get in behind and run about daft.
“Jamie Vardy has made a career out of being the complete opposite from a lot of Premier League No. 9s.
“His style is just being an absolute nuisance, and if I can do that in a different position then, hopefully, I can be as successful as he has been.
“I respected him as a player, but until I actually came to England, I didn’t realise how annoying he was to play against.
“If you’re a nuisance, then no matter who you are playing, you will give them a hard game.
“When you have the opportunity to face players who have been so successful, then you need to learn from them.”
Lockdown has allowed McGinn to make a complete recovery from the broken ankle he sustained in a defeat by Southampton just before Christmas.
He reckons the lay-off could also have helped Villa in their battle against the drop.
“The first part of the season was flying in, and I was loving it,” he went on.
“Every time I stepped out on to the pitch, I couldn’t believe I was playing in the Premier League and that was the way I was treating the game.
“That’s probably why I got injured. But I don’t regret that.
“If the same situation happened, I would do the same thing. It was just unfortunate.
“If I start worrying about how I go into tackles or how I play, I won’t be playing in this league much longer.
“You get eaten up and spat out.
“It has been a good time for me to reflect, but far longer than I wanted to. But I honestly think it has been good for us mentally.
“I played alongside Douglas Luiz for the first half of the season – and he genuinely couldn’t understand a word I said.
“I don’t know if he spent the lockdown with his tutor, but his English has improved and it helps so much when he can understand ‘man on!’.
“I don’t think they know what ‘man on’ is in Brazil.
“A lot of players from different leagues and countries were flung together and people just expected us to gel instantly. It doesn’t work like that.
“The break allowed all of us to realise the situation we are in, and we have 10 games now to get ourselves out of it.”
McGinn isn’t sure if playing behind closed doors will play a part in how results pan out, but it’s not something he wants his team-mates to dwell on.
He said: “My opinion is that nothing is normal now.
“We’ve all had to wake up and adapt to things like going to the shops, the chippy, anywhere.
“It might be different for a long time, so you can either moan about it, or get on with it.
“If you fail, I’ll bet you people will moan about it.
“If you ask my team-mates, they’ll say, ‘There’s no chance I need a crowd to play to my best level’.
“Our first game against Sheffield United will probably be one of the most-watched games around.
“So even though there are no fans in the stadium, you’ll still feel the intensity and pressure to perform.”
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