Aiden McGeady has delivered a stinging riposte to Roy Keane and others who continue to criticise his performances for the Republic of Ireland.
Keane and another former Irish captain, Andy Townsend, questioned the winger’s input in separate Sunday newspaper interviews last weekend but McGeady has faced such accusations time and again throughout his eight-year international career.
“To be honest, I never saw them (the interviews) but they are entitled to their opinion, it’s fair enough,” said the player at the Irish team’s base in North Dublin.
“Over the qualifying campaign I was probably not great in every game but I know, not being big-headed, that I was probably one of the main players.
“I don’t know what they said exactly but that’s football. Roy Keane, he says enough anyway. I played with him at Celtic and that was bad enough ... He is just one of those guys who has something to say about everything.
“I got on with him as a guy but he is just one of those guys who has an opinion on everything.”
It was an impressive verbal counter-attack from a man who used to mumble so badly in his thick Glaswegian accent that he was all but incomprehensible in interviews when he first reported for duty with Don Givens’ Irish U21s.
More important has been his progress on the pitch where he has displayed an increased aptitude for the defensive realities of international football under Giovanni Trapattoni but, for all his trademark trickery with the ball, the old complaints are never far away.
Too inconsistent. End product not good enough. He has heard it all but when his final ball is mentioned at another juncture in the interview — and not in an entirely negative way — he leaps on the opening like a striker in front of an open goal.
“Right, okay, the Czech Republic game, right?,” he said in reference to last February’s 1-1 friendly draw in Dublin when most of his reviews were again mixed. “And I’m not talking about any other players, I’m just talking about myself.
“I set up a chance for Shane Long, and Darren (O’Dea) had a header he could have scored from, so that’s two. No-one else done that. I read in the paper the next day at the airport — ‘final ball not good enough’. As I said, there you go.”
A certain James McClean made his senior debut that same evening and, though McGeady was inevitably questioned about the added pressure that comes with the arrival into the squad of such a talent, he sounded relaxed about the competition.
He is entitled to feel secure in his surroundings. A regular in the qualifying campaign, he will likely earn his 50th cap at the European Championships and is approaching the tournament on the back of a positive spell at Spartak Moscow.
A 2-0 win over Lokomotiv allowed them to leapfrog CSKA into second place and claim the last Champions League qualifying spot on the final day of theRussian season. Both goals came courtesy of crosses from the former Celtic employee.
He described it as one of his best days in Moscow but admitted too that there have been more difficult times. It is only a matter of months since reports had him falling out with coach Valery Karpin and being fined €2000 for a bad attitude in training.
Former Spartak coach and club legend Oleg Romantsev only heightened the spotlight’s glare when he suggested the talented winger required the services of a psychologist at a time when he was left lingering on the bench.
“I was never fined actually,” he pointed out. “I don’t know where that came from.
“Obviously that’s what happens when you’re so far away, the negative stuff. I saw negative stuff coming out and then it was forgotten about.
“I started playing well again but when that happened there wasn’t much positive stuff coming out but it’s part and parcel of being so far away. You’re like on a couple of week’s delay from what happens over there. I was never fined and I’d no real problems with the manager.”
Karpin will be replaced by former Valencia coach Urai Emery next season but McGeady admitted that the likelihood of him seeing out his playing days in Moscow is a non-runner. So the only question is whether he will return westwards sooner or later.
“The lifestyle is okay for me but my girlfriend finds it quite difficult and that’s probably one of the main factors. I have a wee girl as well and I’m away for long periods of time and she’s in the house [by] herself. It’s not ideal.
“If I was on my own it would probably be easier but when you have someone else with you it can be more difficult.”
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