I will place a hard hat on before I write this and I must stress - I am a huge Aiden McGeady fan. But he hasn’t quite clicked so far this season, has he?
So often he’s been our main man; the biggest and sometimes only threat in our team at this level. He’s often carried us through matches single-handedly almost.
His skills are easy to list but much harder to stop. His dribbling ability, his touches, he can go inside and outside, his assists, his goals, his crosses, and a lot more.
When he plays well, usually so do Sunderland.
This season, however, not so much. His skills aren’t quite as red-hot, his touch not as good, his feet not as quick. Burton aside, it hasn’t quite affected us as much. We’ve managed to win four games, three in the league and one in the cup, and McGeady hasn’t really played well in any match.
Granted, he tucked away that penalty against Wigan, but that was his only major contribution. And against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, he looked well off the pace.
Of course, the glaringly obvious answer as to why is his fitness. McGeady has been struggling to get fully fit - anybody can see with his current performances, that he’s far from firing on all cylinders.
All of our games have been close this season. Narrowly edging out Wimbledon, Wigan Athletic, and MK Dons and succumbing to Burton Albion, but McGeady has left the field early in three out of those four games. For such a vital player to be taken off, when the game is still in the balance, indicates it has to be physical fitness rather than tactical reasons.
Reports from inside the club suggest McGeady has been receiving a course of painkilling injections and that has significantly hampered his ability to play at his very best. It’s a risky option to take, numbing the pain of the injury so that the player can continue playing. I’m certainly no physiotherapist but I can’t imagine long-term that will do too much good and may make things worse later on down the line.
We also have to address the elephant in the room - McGeady’s age. As good technically as he is, time waits for no man and he is now 35. When a player gets older his level of fitness naturally goes down. More recovery time is needed in between games and the little niggly injuries can take longer to get over than when you’re in your mid-20s.
Is this the start of a slight decline? Possibly, but one thing is for certain - if we are to get out of this league, we need him as close to his best as possible. Both physically and technically.
Aiden McGeady at 80 or 90% is still way better than most players in this league. Let's hope he picks up form sooner rather than later.