Aberdeen: Former Don Niall McGinn tips club to improve despite loss of players

Niall McGinn
Niall McGinn scored more than 60 goals in his five years with Aberdeen

Niall McGinn is convinced Aberdeen will continue to improve despite the loss of key players this summer.

The Northern Irishman quit Pittodrie to join South Korean side Gwangju FC, with Jonny Hayes, Ryan Jack and Ash Taylor also departing this summer.

But McGinn reckons manager Derek McInnes will keep the club moving in the right direction.

"I look at the Aberdeen side and I know they can keep moving forward and go from strength to strength," he said.

"Hopefully they can make the group stages of the Europa League, which would be unbelievable."

McGinn, 29, spent five years at Pittodrie and helped the Dons to second-place finishes in the Premiership in the past three seasons. He scored more than 60 goals for the club and helped them secure the League Cup in the 2013-14 campaign.

That form made him a Northern Ireland regular and at Euro 2016 McGinn scored against Ukraine in the nation's first ever win at a European Championships.

Niall McGinn
McGinn scored his third international goal in Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 win over Ukraine

"It wasn't an easy decision to leave as I had five unbelievably great years at Aberdeen, winning a trophy, playing in Europe and even just playing week-in, week-out and getting my career sort of back on track," he told BBC Scotland.

"That also helped me on the international stage as well so I've nothing but thanks to the managers I played under. I can't thank them enough and the fans were second to none."

Moving to Korea marks a massive change for McGinn as he looks to adapt to a new culture and, for the immediate future at least, gets used to playing for a side at the opposite end of the table from where the Dons have been challenging.

'He'll be surprised by the standard'

Gwangju are bottom of the K-League Classic but Sunday's 3-2 win over FC Seoul took them level on 16 points with second-bottom Daegu.

"The first week has been really enjoyable," McGinn added. "The Korean lads are very fit, but I know if I keep my head down and work hard I'm more than capable of getting to that level.

"If you look at the league, the games are always close. The group is tight knit and get on very well, so with a bit of luck and a few goals it can all change.

"I'll be there to watch the match against FC Seoul, and every game will be big between now and the end of the season given our position in the table."

Scottish coach Martin Rennie knows just how different life will be for McGinn in South Korea, having managed Seoul E-Land from 2014-16.

Martin Rennie
Scottish coach Martin Rennie also had a spell in charge of MLS outfit Vancouver Whitecaps

And he reckons the forward will be in for a shock at what he sees on the pitch.

"The Korean teams regularly win the Asian Champions League and what I found was that all the players had high levels of technique, professionalism, fitness and the teams play well together," Rennie told BBC Scotland.

"I think he'll be quite surprised by the standard of the play. The Korean teams, and the Japanese teams, are really high standard.

"I've travelled all over the world and coached in different parts of the world, but there's nowhere like Korea, there's no way you can be prepared for it.

"It'll be a great challenge and one, if he puts himself fully into it, then he'll grow a lot as a person and improve as a footballer, but it's not going to be easy."

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