Aiden McGeady pays tribute to his former manager Neil Lennon
Everton winger says: ‘He was great when I worked under him at Celtic’
Aiden McGeady’s future is clear-cut just now as he approaches the end of what he regards as an extended settling-in period at Goodison Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
If there was a perfect day to put up Aiden McGeady for the press then this was it – although it’s not entirely clear whether the first lot of reporters to speak with him in Malahide had yet heard the news that Neil Lennon had left Celtic.
Okay, it wouldn’t quite be on a par with the guy who left Saipan a couple of hours before the whole Roy Keane thing broke and got off a plane in Japan to discover he had 30-odd missed calls from the office. But phoning in yesterday to say McGeady had been good on Merseyside versus Moscow – where he played with Spartak – as a place to live would probably have earned a one-way ticket to the journalistic doghouse.
The 28-year-old Everton winger was promoting the game EA Sports 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil (which, it has been suggested I tell you, is available now) and McGeady’s spirits remained impressively high as he was asked a seemingly endless succession of questions about the departing Celtic manager.
“He was great when I worked under him at Celtic,” he observed, even if it was only for nine or 10 games. “I really enjoyed it when he was the manager there. He was your manager but he could be your mate as well a little bit and while he told you when things weren’t right he was very positive. Very, very positive. I can’t speak highly enough of him really.”
The midfielder is confident that Lennon can make his mark now south of the border assuming that’s where he heading.
Norwich City has obviously been mentioned but the former Northern Ireland international has surely done enough in Scotland over the last few seasons to have earned a crack at a top-flight club where the measure of success might not be the same but the stakes will most likely still feel pretty high.
“He did great things with Celtic so I don’t think anyone could really argue with him going but, at the moment, he obviously must have something lined up. It’ll be a different kind of pressure now, though. At Celtic, if you lose two games on the bounce there’s a crisis. If you don’t win every single trophy you’ve had a bad season.” One-horse races He’ll have less of that to contend with for a while and fewer one-horse races but he’ll do well, insists McGeady, whatever the challenge: “I think so, yeah.”
His own future is rather more clear-cut just now with McGeady approaching the end of what he regards as an extended settling in period at Goodison Park and looking forward to a season where he will be entirely at the races from the outset.
“I’ve had to hit the ground running at Everton but it’s good that I have had four or five months in the Premiership to get used to the team, the club, the way we play and the way the manager wants us to play.
“I can see what the players have got, the players I’m competing with for positions in the team. There’s a lot of quality there but I still think that if I can have a good pre-season and work hard, there’s definitely a chance there for me.”
He hasn’t done too badly with Ireland to date but there was always a sense that Giovanni Trapattoni expected a little more from him and one now that Martin O’Neill, who also worked with him at Celtic, may actually get it out of him.
The player’s tone, when he talked about the current Ireland boss, becomes deeply respectful.
Something that seemed to go well beyond the normal niceties of these situations with McGeady not the first to highlight O’Neill’s match-day motivational skills as an attribute to be admired.
“When I was at Celtic, he always had the respect. Stevie Walford and John Robertson would always take training and he would keep an eye on it. But on a match day he would come in just before the game and gear the players up and get a massive response. ‘Respect commanded’ “That is what I always noticed about him. The respect he commanded from the players and the response he got from everyone.
“Training every day would be playing a five-a-side or 10-a-side game but on a match day . . . there were so many players at Celtic who were not bothered in training but on a matchday they came alive.”
Sunday’s game against Turkey is so low key that there were an awful lot of family tickets being given away for free yesterday. That in itself suggests a motivational mountain to climb for any manager. O’Neill, insists McGeady, is the perfect man to conquer it.