With one symbiotic and the other just toxic, you’ll struggle to find two player-manager relationships in football more different than Aiden McGeady’s with Simon Grayson and Adnan Januzaj’s with David Moyes.
Ah, there’s that name again... David Moyes. If this was last season, the mere mention of the sour Scotsman’s name would be the harbinger for an article bemoaning the faults and failures of our beloved football club - but this is a new age we live in.
There’ll be no negativity today. Instead, we’ll compare the two aforementioned partnerships of player and manager, and the stark contrast will show us just how much the club has improved - in terms of both quality and mentality - in such a short space of time.
We’ll start with McGeady and Grayson, shall we?
Aiden McGeady was a man down on his luck as his reputation amongst the Everton faithful deteriorated with each season he spent there.
His first season with the Toffees saw him make a mere three starts as he was consigned to lengthy periods on the bench during the 2014/15 season. However, things would only get worse for the Irish winger as he picked up an injury the season after, which saw him subsequently lose his hopes of first team football in a Blue shirt to then-new signing Aaron Lennon. Hopes he would never regain.
When Grayson came knocking on Everton’s door, McGeady had allegedly lost all passion for the beautiful game. Our former Preston manager wasn’t about to let a career with so much potential yet to be attained go to waste though.
Speaking in an interview after the Norwich game, Grayson had this to say on McGeady:
He had fallen out of love with the game before I took him to Preston and let him express himself.
He has fallen back in love with the game, and when I came in he was the first player I wanted to sign.
Grayson offered McGeady a chance to come into his own and play to his strengths at a level where his talents would be showcased for all to see. McGeady gained an opportunity that is truly priceless in nature at this stage of his career - the opportunity to make something of himself before it’s too late. Grayson, on the other hand, gained a player for his team whose skills are virtually unrivaled at this level.
Clearly, such a player-manager relationship is mutually beneficial, as both player and manager gain the ability to perform their role as best as they possibly can.
Now, let’s make a rather stark contrast to the association of David Moyes and Adnan Januzaj...
Januzaj was brought into the limelight of top-flight football by Moyes when the Scotsman was considered to be both a decent manager and bloke - a perspective that is retrospectively absurd.
But the Belgian would come to view his relationship with the former Everton manager as an inconvenience as the latter’s reputation diminished rapidly. Januzaj wanted to improve upon, or at the very least consolidate, his position and reputation at the top level - meaning a reunion with Moyesy at Sunderland wasn’t quite what he had in mind.
Moyes had once been able to further Januzaj’s career, but now he was holding him back. To Januzaj, Moyes was nothing more than a stepping stone he traversed years ago; a tool with a singular purpose that had long since exhausted it’s practicality.
This player-manager association wasn’t any better the other way round, either. Moyes re-signed old names and faces as he haphazardly stitched our threadbare squad back together with his thoughtless, careless excuse for a transfer policy. Januzaj just happened to be available and met Moyes’s tactless criteria - so he figured, aye, I’ll spend another season with moody Adnan on my books.
All things considered, Moyes and Januzaj shared a relationship built on carelessness from one end and resentment from the other. A manager who wrote off his new club from the get-go reuniting with a player who saw the club as a blight on his career trajectory is literally a microcosm of the misery that was last season.
But that was then, and the McGeady-Grayson alliance is this season. Now we have a player working for a manager who they respect, due to said manager wanting nothing more than to get the best out of them, have them committed to a cause which will ultimately to set their careers back on the right track.
This is a new Sunderland, with a new manager and a new mentality - not the same old sh*te we were served season after season in the Premier League. McGeady and Grayson’s relationship just proves the fact that we’re moving in the right direction as a club - and it’s something we should be excited about.