Aiden McGeady: Part played by former Hibs boss as Sunderland winger looks to seal Easter Road move
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The new Easter Road boss won’t mind. McGeady will be a free agent when he departs Sunderland following the expiry of his deal at the Stadium of Light after their promotion to the Championship. He confirmed last week that he wants to continue his playing career next season and the Edinburgh Evening News understands that Hibs have been a potential destination for a number of weeks.
The Scottish Sun reports that the Easter Road club are considering a move for the 36-year-old, which will reunite the former Celtic and Republic of Ireland winger with Johnson from their time together at Sunderland.
But his expected summer move to Edinburgh was initiated by Shaun Maloney, who can also take the credit for the signing of goalkeeper David Marshall, another former teammate from his Celtic days, on a free transfer from Queens Park Rangers.
Maloney, who was sacked last month after just 120 days in the job, played with McGeady (and Marshall) at Celtic and was keen to tempt his former teammate back to the Scottish Premiership to bolster his squad’s attacking options and offer him a platform to begin his coaching career.
McGeady is currently studying for a masters degree in sporting directorship and already has a B licence in coaching. Although he wants to continue playing next season, he is thinking about his options when he hangs up his boots.
McGeady has also been linked with a move to Fleetwood Town, where new manager Scott Brown is using his Celtic connections to shape a squad for his first season in management. But McGeady certainly won’t be turned off by Maloney’s replacement at Easter Road. He has a strong relationship with Johnson, who described McGeady as “top drawer” during their time together at the Stadium of Light.
Johnson is now the third Hibs manager credited with an interest in McGeady. Jack Ross, who also managed the player on Wearside, was reported to be exploring the possibility of doing a deal back in 2019.
McGeady has know for some time that his Sunderland days are coming to at an end, injury problems curtailing his time on the pitch at the end of the season just finished. He was named on the bench as Alex Neil’s Black Cats defeated Wycombe Wanderers 2-0 at Wembley to cement promotion to the Championship last week. When asked after the match by the Sunderland Echo last week if he would remain at the club, McGeady hinted that he would be moving on.
“I honestly don’t know,” he said. “I still want to play. I’m going to carry on playing. I just don’t know where it will be. I doubt it will be here, but I have enjoyed my time here. If it has come to end then so be it. I have enjoyed it here massively. Hence why I’ve stayed for so long.”
McGeady’s bond with Johnson, sacked by Sunderland in January, suggests he will be the next free transfer to come through the door at Easter Road after the signings of his former Celtic teammate Marshall and midfielder Nohan Kenneh from Leeds United.
During their time working together at the Stadium of Light, the pair formed a strong relationship will tip the scales in favour of Hibs rather than Fleetwood.
Speaking nearly a year ago, having signed a contract extension to stay at Sunderland, McGeady spoke of the influence of Johnson. “If it was another manager then I don't think I would be here, but he made it quite clear from as soon as he took over that he wanted me to play and be a big player in his team,” he told the Sunderland website in July 2021.
“He showed a lot of faith in me and I'd like to think I repaid that faith to an extent, but there's a lot more to be done to be successful. But the manager was a big part in me wanting to stay. I've played probably my best football for a couple of years, especially when I came back into the team, under him. He gives me licence to play and I know now what he wants from his team.”
Johnson has also spoken of his admiration for 93-time Republic of Ireland international and will be looking for a left winger after opting not to make Sylvester Jasper’s loan from Fulham permanent. McGeady may not have the acceleration he once had, but his technical ability and experience will make him a useful option to have in area of the pitch Hibs are lacking.
Describing McGeady as “a quality human and professional”, Johnson said when he was Sunderland boss: “I believe he’s a great player, he’s our talisman, if you like, in terms of that attitude to take the game by the scruff of the neck and go and produce.”
McGeady has been a good servant to Sunderland over recent years, making 149 appearances for them in all competitions and chipping in with 36 goals and 34 assists.
He started his career at Celtic, where he made more than 250 appearances before being sold around £9.5million to Russian giants Spartak Moscow.
Following three seasons without a trophy in Russia, he moved to Everton, but was used sparingly by the Premier League club and the last two seasons of his four years at Goodison Park were spent out on loan at Sheffield Wednesday and Preston North End.
He joined Sunderland in 2017 whilst they were in the Championship but they were relegated to League One during his first campaign at the club. He had a loan spell away at Charlton Athletic a couple of years ago, but has stayed loyal to the Black Cats since their relegation.
With loyalty to Johnson a factor too, he will become a Hibs player soon.