He admitted that it was “the most nervous I've been for a game in a long time. I had butterflies”, and added: “I had a special three years here, it's great to be back but it's a good result for us.
"I was at a bit of a crossroads in my career and this club gave me a platform to show what I can do. The supporters took to me very early. So I told the boys 'don't disrespect Hibs'.”
But that emotional attachment was put to one side during a game in which the Scotland midfielder and his colleagues exposed the gulf in finances and ability between the cash-rich EPL and the Scottish Premiership.
The away fans goaded the Hibs support with renditions of ‘We’ve got McGinn, super John McGinn’ and that fact probably still hurts more than a 5-0 mauling in a competition they were never going to win but Villa might just.
Villa boss Unai Emery, who has a sublime record in continental tournaments, recognised the popularity - and the value - of the Hibs legend.
“He is amazing. I know you love him here more than me, but I still think he is amazing,” said the Villa boss. “He always wants, from the first minute to the 90th minute, to run and to be competitive.
“I am very happy with him. And not only as a player, as a person as well. His commitment is very high. He is always positive, always smiling. In bad moments, in good moments, he always keeps the same mentality. It is fantastic.”
All but through to the group stage of the Europa Conference League, Emery said his men are focused on winning it.
“The Premier League is of course the most important competition for us. But I want to try to do something in another competition – the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup. And Europe for me is always special. We can add another competition and hopefully be a candidate to get a trophy.”