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OPINION: Irish créme de la créme - why Aiden McGeady could be Sunderland’s most important player

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The return of Aiden McGeady to Sunderland’s squad means having a player available that is undoubtedly a cut above the rest in League One. Just how important could he be in our quest for promotion this season?

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Once the dust settled and the mass exodus in the summer was complete I was surprised and thoroughly pleased to see one name still amongst our ranks: Aiden McGeady.

The tricky winger was one of the few players in my opinion that didn’t completely disgrace himself last season with his performances, with a calf injury probably the only thing keeping him off the transfer market. Now that I see where we are as a side, and the style Ross is trying to get us to play, I am ecstatic that the Republic of Ireland international has remained on Wearside.

McGeady’s surprising inclusion in the squad and introduction in the second half on Saturday didn’t set the world alight – with the plaudits going to our other mercurial left footer, Chris Maguire ­– but his return could mark a change in fortunes for a Sunderland in need of some magic.

With seven goals from midfield last year, McGeady was our second top goal scorer behind Lewis Grabban. Seven goals and five assists isn’t much to write home about, but when you remember that Sunderland struggled to string three passes together last season, it suddenly looks like a respectable return.

Aiden McGeady when playing at his best will blow every footballer in this league out of the water, I have no doubt about it. He would’ve done it last year in a decent side. With a solid left back behind him in Oviedo and players to combine with in Maja, Gooch, Honeyman and others, McGeady could become a focal point of our promotion push.

He’s a player that has the ability to produce a moment of magic out of nowhere – be it an absolute rocket that makes me finally realise what true happiness is or making complete tits out of the opposition with step overs and other tricks I can’t do on FIFA, let alone real life.

In League One, his risk taking will not be as harshly punished and he will be given more than enough chances in a game for that mazy run to pay off. McGeady is the type of player that young Sunderland fans will emulate during the lunchtime kick-about. He will excite and infuriate in equal measure.

He’s a player that no other team in the division has in their locker.

And, if Jack Ross’ comments are anything to go by, it’s not only his obvious natural ability that he will bring to the team. In a conversation with the Chronicle, the manager said:

He does care about his football. He cares about having been relegated, he cares about being in this league and wanting to get out of it.

You need characters that are vocal in that sense because he’s vocal about it. Having him back amongst the group and having that drive and having his ability in that area of the pitch, he’s going to be an asset for us.

Birmingham City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

This came as a pleasant surprise. Maybe I’ve become jaded, but I assumed that because I knew McGeady was better than pretty much everyone in our team, he would think that too – and have the attitude to match it. In fact, my main impression of McGeady came from the Preston away game last year when, after scoring, he elected to run the length of the pitch and celebrate to enrage the opposing fans – as if he had previously been a club legend there before jumping ship, rather than having only been on loan to them the season before.

In short, I assumed he was a bit of a sh*t.

To hear that he is a presence in the dressing room means that his inclusion in the side is even more welcome. At 32, he is one of the more senior players and has the ability and character to help the younger players along and become the ‘main man’ at Sunderland.

In Aiden McGeady we have a player with the right amount of arrogance, that will unavoidably float in and out of games and annoy some sections of the support when he doesn’t track back. But he will produce when it counts – and with the players around him he should only have to concentrate on terrifying the opposition back line.

Honestly, ever since he left Celtic he’s always seemed like a man without a country – a journeyman. With this new (to me anyway) revelation about his character I hope he’s found his place at Sunderland, a club where he can really make his mark and be a part of something special.

Come next season I have a feeling that it won’t be as quiet on the McGeady transfer front, and I feel the club will be doing everything in its power to make sure he stays in the red and white.