It has been an interesting season so far, to say the least, for Aiden McGeady at Sunderland with the attacker having started the campaign looking unlikely to have much of a future at the club.
That came after he was loaned out to Charlton Athletic for the second half of last season by Phil Parkinson who had appeared to have lost faith in the experienced 34-year-old. However, McGeady’s fortunes have been transformed since Lee Johnson took over as manager and he is now back fully involved within the first-team squad.
The attacker has been given the chance to start afresh and try and add an extra attacking spark for the Black Cats as they aim to ensure they do not miss out on a top-six finish for the second successive campaign in League One. The 34-year-old has already shown flashes of what he will bring to the side during the rest of the season.
McGeady will hope that he can help Sunderland to find the sort of consistency they will need to mount a successful push for one of the play-off positions come the end of the campaign. If he can be at his best then he should play a key role in whether they can do that or not.
Here then, we take a look at McGeady’s season so far and assess what the future might hold for him…
How’s it gone so far?
The first few months of the campaign would have been a tough period for McGeady, who had found himself well down the pecking order under Parkinson and out of favour. That meant that the attacker saw himself consistently left out of the starting line-up and the squad for the Black Cats during the opening half of the League One season.
However, Johnson’s appointment as Sunderland manager instantly transformed his fortunes, and he was thrown straight back in for his first start since for the Black Cats since November 2019 in the 1-0 defeat at home to Wigan Athletic in December. From that game on the 34-year-old has been a consistent member of the side over the last couple of months.
McGeady has rewarded Johnson’s faith and belief in him by adding some extra much-needed creativity to the side, and he already has managed to register eight assists and two goals for the Black Cats in 12 league appearances (Sofascore). While he also remarkably assisted all four of Charlie Wyke’s goals in their 4-1 win against Doncaster Rovers yesterday (Sofascore).
What issues does he face?
The main issues that McGeady faces are ensuring that he remains injury-free and maintains his consistency for the Black Cats. During Sunderland’s recent 2-2 draw at MK Dons he was excellent making two assists, delivering four key passes, and having 53 touches of the ball (Sofascore). That is the sort of performance level that he also replicated against Doncaster and then some.
McGeady’s age means he has lost a yard or so of pace that he used to possess, but he has plenty of technical quality and he is amongst the most naturally gifted footballers in League One. The attacker needs to show that ability in all of the remaining matches because when he struggles to make things happen Johnson’s side are much less of an attacking threat.
A lot of Sunderland’s top-six hopes rest on the shoulders of McGeady staying in form and injury-free, so it will be important that he does not let that pressure get to him and he instead embraces his importance to the side, after going so long out of favour under Parkinson.
The immediate future for McGeady will be to try and ensure that he continues to have a positive influence on the side over the next few weeks. Sunderland are facing a crucial period in their campaign and they have to put a consistent run of wins together soon if they are going to be able to make it into the top six.
In terms of his more long-term future, McGeady is set to be out of contract in the summer and a few months ago it looked certain he would be heading for the exit door with no chance of a new deal. However, he has since returned to the side, while the salary cap imposed on clubs in League One and Two have been scrapped.
Sunderland could therefore look to offer him a new deal in the summer, but that might depend on what league they are preparing to play in. While McGeady will likely have other offers to consider as well ahead of what could be the last contract of his professional career given he is now 34-years-old.