When Roberto Martinez decided to sign Aiden McGeady back in January, 2014, many Evertonians were surprised. There was still hope however, that the mercurial winger could rediscover his best form. He would also be following the great tradition of Irish players running out at Goodison Park. McGeady had spent three and a half mediocre years in Russia. A return to English soil was meant to reinvigorate the ex-Celtic man. Everton were delighted to land their target and gave the 27-year-old, McGeady, a four and a half-year contract. He was, after all, meant to be entering the prime years of his career. What has happened to McGeady since has been nothing short of a disaster. Contracted until the summer of 2018, there’s still time for him to make his mark for the Toffees. Could an Aiden McGeady comeback happen at Everton?
‘I think he can do a lot better but maybe that’s the story of Aiden’s career’
Roy Keane didn’t pull any punches when critiquing McGeady’s performance for Ireland before the European Championships. Belarus had just sprung a surprise in Cork by beating the Irish 2-1. Keane was scathing in his post-match press conference. McGeady was on the receiving end of a brutally accurate statement. Flattering to deceive has become McGeady’s forte since he left Celtic back in 2010.
McGeady had burst on to the scene with the Hoops late in the 2003/2004 season. A goal against Hearts only seventeen minutes in to his senior debut put the 18-year-old on the front page. His time at Parkhead would be littered with personal and team awards. When Spartak Moscow came calling with an 11 million pound offer in January, 2010, the club nor McGeady could turn it down. After 6 full seasons with Celtic, every major domestic title had been secured (some, a few times over). Irish fans were slightly disappointed though, as McGeady was expected to move to the Premier League. His dribbling ability had made him a fan’s favourite at Parkhead and Lansdowne Road. Suddenly he was heading in to the Russian abyss.
Russian Rescue Mission
After winning numerous leagues and cups at Celtic, his three and a half years with Spartak would pass without any success. A runners-up league medal was as good as it got. While he was in Moscow, McGeady had the following to say in an interview:
“I have made no secret of the fact that one day I would like to play in England. I would be disappointed if I never get the chance to do that. I didn’t think I would be here this long, I didn’t see myself being here longer than a couple of years. But no footballer really looks four or five years ahead.”
Everton then gave him the platform he craved. McGeady was joining an improving side. Furthermore, his new manager had faith in his ability. Roberto Martinez comments soon after his arrival show how highly he rated McGeady:
“He has been putting in extra work, working really hard. It’s about him setting certain levels to make sure he’s fully fit soon. I think when he is he’ll take us to a different level in terms of our forward play.”
ANOTHER DIP IN FORM
Martinez’s confidence in his new signing soon faltered. McGeady would make 16 appearances from January to May, as Everton finished in fifth place. There were only four starts during this time for the winger as he struggled to establish himself. However, expectations were still high for the following season. McGeady, unfortunately, would again disappoint. In the entire 2014/2015 campaign, there were only 16 appearances for the Irishman, While his international teammates, Coleman and McCarthy, had become crucial players in the Everton setup, McGeady struggled for game time.
In the summer of 2015, there was a move by Sunderland to sign McGeady but the player apparently rejected the opportunity. Everton were seemingly willing to cut their losses just one and a half years in to a four and a half-year contract. Spurning the Black Cat’s advances proved to be a mistake by McGeady as he didn’t feature at all in the first few months of the season. Sheffield Wednesday offered him a lifeline in the January transfer window. The drop to the championship was expected to be the chance McGeady needed to excel. Once again, things didn’t work out as planned. The winger was even left out of the Championship play-off final squad. The retired Irish winger and now pundit, Damien Duff, was perplexed at McGeady’s struggles:
“I just think he’s got amazing talent, I don’t know what’s gone on with Sheffield Wednesday this year, for me he should have been lighting up the Championship. I don’t know if it’s injury problems, or he didn’t fit with the manager or what, but I’d love to see him go and do well, his ability is a dying breed. I love him to bits. Even in training every day, I thought I could dribble until I saw this kid, he’s just on another planet”
New manager. same problem.
Ronald Koeman arrived at Goodison Park this summer and quickly extinguished any hopes of a McGeady return. The uncompromising Dutch manager did not even give the winger a squad number. In the last minutes of transfer window, he secured a season-long loan move to Preston. This was last chance saloon territory and McGeady responded brilliantly by scoring this cracker on his debut.No goals have followed since, but McGeady has been playing regularly, which is something that hasn’t happened since 2011.
Could an Aiden McGeady comeback happen at Everton? Koeman is not a man to easily change his mind. McGeady would need to significantly up his game at Deepdale in order to give the Toffees’ boss a decision to make. Bolasie has just gotten injured, so in theory, a player like McGeady could have stepped in. His contract at Goodison Park runs until the summer of 2018, so there is the slight possibility that McGeady could line up for Everton next season. At the age of 30, time is running out for the winger to make an impact. He has already earned an incredible 86 caps for Ireland, but as Keane pointed out, many performances in the green jersey have been underwhelming.
Everton have fallen away after a bright start. There was a time where McGeady would have been described as the perfect player to arrest such a slide. A creative play-maker that could supply Lukaku with chance after chance. Realistically, McGeady is perhaps no longer at a Premiership standard, and will probably exit Everton after another loan spell next season. His desire to play in England’s top flight has not turned out well. At least McGeady has the opportunity to prove himself (again) this season. A solid run with Preston is required, and then at the very least, he will have some options next summer. It might be a push to think that Koeman will consider him again.
What do you think? Could an Aiden McGeady comeback happen at Everton? Has the blue boat already sailed for the talented but frustrating winger, or could he still make Goodison Park his home? Let us know in the poll below.
Feature Image: SkySports. Ireland Image: SkySports. Everton signing image: BBC.
Photo by BrianHargadon