Belfast Telegraph

Aiden McGeady is still trying to dispel the doubters

By Daniel McDonnell

Aiden McGeady is halfway through his interview when he is politely interrupted by a familiar Irish face from his days as a player with Celtic.

The pleasantries inevitably end up coming around to his November return to his home city of Glasgow and a key Euro 2016 qualifier with Scotland.

You suspect it is a discussion that he is already well versed in.

“I'm hoping there will be as many Irish fans as Scottish fans,” he says later with a smile, appreciating that he is going to come under intense scrutiny in the forthcoming campaign based on his own background.

But that is nothing new for an individual who has been dealing with a burden of expectation since Martin O'Neill threw him into the Celtic first-team as a teenager in 2004.

The change as he prepares to embark on another campaign in green is that his fresh club circumstances mean he is being viewed in a slightly different light.

This is the first qualifying group that he has started as a Premier League performer and the early signs are that he will be a key figure for Everton in the road ahead.

He knows that succeeding in England brings a degree of credibility from the wider public that doesn't come with his exploits in Scotland and Russia, even if that isn't always a fair viewpoint.

“The thing about being in Moscow is that I was so far away from everyone,” he says. “I came in, played for Ireland and I was gone again. Whereas now, you're kind of seen every week and, obviously, if you're playing people can keep an eye on you.

“I feel with the Premier League, if you have a good season and you're doing well, everyone rates you. That's the way England is. Whereas before people probably said 'Ah he's playing in Russia'. Even when I felt I was playing in a tough league and felt I was improving.”

McGeady has 68 caps for Ireland and yet he still has his doubters. The outside view doesn't concern him too much as he can be even harder on himself. “If I come off a pitch and think I've played well, or not played well, I don't need someone else to tell me,” he asserts. “I probably am my own harshest critic.”

That extended to his performances at Euro 2012, his biggest moment in an Irish shirt to date, which turned into a disappointment.

In the past, he's been open about his own struggles. Speaking yesterday at the Republic of Ireland base in Malahide ahead of tonight's friendly with Oman — the warm-up for Sunday's big kick-off in Georgia — he looked back on that potential career highlight with regrets.

“We did really well to qualify,” he sighs. “And we did have a very tough group. But I don't think we did enough homework.

“You look back and it's not a happy memory for the fact we lost every game and conceded so many goals.

“It's great to say you played at a major finals but in terms of giving the fans something to shout about — we didn't do that.”

His wish is that the combination of his old mentor O'Neill and former Celtic colleague Roy Keane can turn things around. Keane, he notes, is a more relaxed figure than his reputation suggests.

“I can't really judge Roy on anything else because I've never had him as a manager.

“It's a funny one, a lot of people around here might say he's changed a lot from when he was a manager but I can't say that. I'm remembering him from when I played with him at Celtic, I can still joke with him and things, have a bit of banter. I can't compare him to being a coach but he is vocal and different to what I've expected. He's been positive.”

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