Aiden McGeady made his long awaited return today in Sunderland under-23s 4-3 defeat away against Crystal Palace. He played 61 minutes before being substituted for 19-year-old trialist Rayan Clarke, who went onto score.
It was the first time the former Republic of Ireland international had featured for the Black Cats since a high profile fallout with manager Phil Parkinson, despite leaving to join to Charlton in January he could not find a permanent move in the summer.
Parkinson suggested that McGeady’s involvement would limit first-team opportunities to Sunderland’s upcoming academy talents (who he has not used in league games), which led to the winger being omitted from Sunderland 2020/21 League One squad.
The question that every Sunderland fan desires the answer to is: what does this mean?
Is McGeady regaining fitness ahead of a January move?
The most likely option is that whilst Phil Parkinson remains in charge of Sunderland, Aiden McGeady will not kick a ball in the first-team again.
The Irishman was expected to move on in the summer, but the likely sticking point will be his wages, particularly in light of the new cap introduced by the EFL this summer.
The 34-year-old was largely ineffective during his loan spell with Charlton, failing to score or assist in ten games, as the South-East London based side were relegated.
Following that failed spell, it is unlikely a Championship will take a punt on McGeady, which makes you question where he could move in January.
No League One clubs can afford him unless Sunderland pay an extortionate proportion of his wages, which makes a foreign move seem the most likely, perhaps to Turkey or America.
I think it is very unlikely in the current financial climate that any British club could afford, or be willing, to match what Sunderland are paying for a 34-year-old, which leaves McGeady holding the cards under his current contract.
Should clubs be interested in signing him, they are not going to want an unfit player, so it would make sense for McGeady to play regular under-23 football to gain sharpness.
Plus, it is a win-win for both parties, if McGeady plays well he is more likely to attract more attention from possible suitors, and then the club will also achieve better results from fielding an experienced pro against mainly inexperienced youngsters.
The under-23’s next fixture is away against West Brom next Monday, so it will certainly be interesting to see if McGeady features again.
Has Phil Parkinson changed his mind?
The most unlikely of scenarios is that Parkinson has decided to do a U-turn and reintegrate McGeady into the first-team squad.
The reason this is highly unlikely is because it would be enormously embarrassing for the manager, as he would have to admit that his decision was incorrect.
Perhaps Parkinson has recognised that the team is lacking creativity and goals, so he is willing to put the club’s interests ahead of his personal grudges.
However, this appears to have a minimal chance of occurring as Parkinson has consistently stated that McGeady would not return and the club will look to move him on.
Parkinson highlighted the progress of younger players, in particular Elliot Embleton, as a reason to not give the Irishman another chance.
Also, McGeady was purposely left out to save money on the new wage cap structure, so Sunderland would likely have to wait until the January transfer window to register him without breaking rules.
Contrastingly, you also have to question whether McGeady would be willing to play for Parkinson again after how he was scapegoated by the 52-year-old.
McGeady showed, for example on the Sunderland Till I Die Netflix documentary, that he is not scared to make bold comments when he discussed then manager Chris Coleman’s tactics.
Whichever way you judge him, as honest with high standards or arrogant and outspoken, it is evident that McGeady believes Parkinson is not the right man to manage Sunderland with the expectation of achieving promotion to the Championship.
Is McGeady being prepared for a new manager?
The last option here depends massively on whether a new takeover or realignment of shares occurs, but should Sunderland’s new majority shareholder or sporting director wish to take a new approach, McGeady may be someone a new manager wishes to utilise.
Parkinson is under intense scrutiny presently with Sunderland sitting outside the playoff positions, with Friday’s match against in-form Fleetwood likely to pile on more misery should the Black Cats lose.
If Donald or potential new owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus wish to pull the plug, it would be ludicrous for any new manager to snub McGeady in light of the financial restrictions placed on League One sides.
Can Sunderland physically attract a player better than an on-form Aiden McGeady given the current wage restrictions?
Other than from some brilliant recruitment of a young up and coming talent, League One clubs are struggling to attract quality players to join permanently on low-wage contracts, with many seeking foreign moves to attain better deals.
It is unlikely that Parkinson will be sacked under the current regime, as many believe Donald either cannot afford or does not want to pay the fee to sack him.
Having said that, if reports are correct that Sunderland are seeking a new sporting director, will they be willing to sit idly and accept the club’s current results and style of play under Parkinson, or will they wish to stamp their mark by making a charge to a fresh face?
Perhaps McGeady senses that Parkinson’s days are numbered, and he wants to be ready for selection by any potential new manager - time will tell on this final option.