While so much has been made of the change in Ireland’s management, Aiden McGeady claims there has also been a change within the new manager himself.
The winger made his breakthrough at Celtic in April 2004, just over a year before Martin O’Neill left the club, and says he has detected a few differences in approach.
“He’s probably a little more hands-on than he used to be,” McGeady claims. “He talks a little bit more than before.”
The new management team’s input has certainly been one of the biggest differences from the previous regime off the pitch. The use of McGeady himself, however, has been one of the biggest differences on it.
His constrained role was one of the trends of Giovanni Trapattoni’s time in charge, and probably added to the relative frustration with McGeady over the past few years. One of the most technically creative players in the side was being charged with effectively playing as an auxiliary full-back.
It meant the winger wasted most of his energy in industry rather than innovation, and was frequently taken off after 70 minutes without having really affected games. Additionally, that rigidity in McGeady’s responsibilities was only matched by a limit on where he could go, with both wingers often looking like they were on straight running tracks down the line.
Now, McGeady seems to have nowhere near the same defensive duties, and the freedom has created a much greater fizz about his play and that of the team. Most evidently, his unpredictability is best used as he can suddenly cut inside to link up with one of the more mobile midfielders.
“That’s kind of the way I play for Spartak,” McGeady says of his willingness to roam, “so it’s probably just a habit. The way we’re playing now, I probably can do that and get a little bit more of the ball, rather than standing out on the touchline.”
One consequence has been a greater quantity of shooting positions, and more chance to fulfil that potential through his goal figures.
“Hopefully. I had a couple of opportunities on Tuesday [against Poland], one in either half, and the one in the second half was similar to the goal I got on Friday night but I played it to Stokesy [Anthony Stokes] and he had a shot then.
“Obviously in every game I’m looking to score but it doesn’t always happen, but I’ll keep trying.
“He [O’Neill] obviously likes his wingers to get the ball and be positive with it and try to go past the full-back. That’s all he’s really been saying to us.
“He’s been happy with the way we’ve been playing so hopefully we can continue and build on that.”
Of course, O’Neill and Roy Keane have also been eager to further build up the confidence of McGeady, particularly talking him up.
“They’ve probably given me a little bit more of a boost because they obviously do have belief in me,” he acknowledges. “But I wouldn’t take anything away from Trapattoni, he probably felt the same. He probably just wasn’t as vocal about it.”
McGeady is vocal about his positive impressions of the new regime.
“He said in the dressing room that he’s been really pleased with the way it’s went, in the last 10 days, and how everybody has trained, performed and applied themselves.
“I think there’s a bit of freshness there, obviously almost everyone’s place is up for grabs and everyone wants to prove themselves to the new management.”
McGeady has made a fine start.
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