Belfast Telegraph

I used to be lazy, but I'm a team player now: McGeady

Euro 2008 Qualifiers

By Mark Staniforth

Aiden McGeady is eager to prove his "lazy" days, when he dismissed the alien concept of a strong team ethic, are long gone by shooting the Republic of Ireland towards Euro 2008.

McGeady's precocious talent earned him an adidas boot deal at the age of 13 and the interest of a number of big English Premier League clubs before he committed himself to Celtic one year later.

It is small wonder McGeady, once considered the most coveted schoolboy footballer in Britain, initially mocked suggestions that he temper his dazzling wide play with an unselfish streak.

Now 20, the success of McGeady's steep learning curve is evident in both his club form for the Hoops and the increasing influence he is having on his country's bid to wriggle through a tight Group D qualifying programme.

Having starred in last month's friendly win in Denmark, in which he played a part in all four Republic goals, McGeady can expect to start when the Irish campaign resumes against Slovakia on Saturday.

McGeady said: "When I was younger I was a lazier player. A lot of what people said went in one ear and out of the other.

"I never used to think about working back and doing a job for the team until it was drummed into me.

"A lot of it is to do with your state of mind and it comes down to whether you can be bothered or not. As you get older you realise you can't really do that any more and that the manager is right.

"I'm a very different player now and the main part of my game is working back. If you don't do a job for the team people consider you a luxury player and luxury players don't generally get a run in the team."

McGeady does not have fond memories of Slovakia. Two years ago he was part of the Celtic team thrashed 5-0 by Artmedia Bratislava in a Champions League qualifier. Reminded of it, that spiky youthfulness quickly re-emerges.

"You know what happened then and that is why you're asking me about it," McGeady bristled.

"We lost 5-0 and I missed a sitter, but it was just one of those nights."

McGeady has come a long way in that short space of time. In Aarhus he seized his chance to impress boss Steve Staunton, who employed a largely experimental midfield in the absence of the likes of Lee Carsley and Kevin Kilbane.

"Denmark was probably my best game for Ireland," added McGeady.

"I'm starting games now and that is giving me a lot more confidence. I am hopeful that I am going to play in the next game too."

Gone are the days when McGeady would not contemplate any tactic which might impinge on his flowing wing play.

Now he is only too happy to represent his country in whatever position Staunton sees fit.

"He is telling me to play as an orthodox winger which is slightly different to how I play at Celtic," added McGeady.

" My main goal is to stay on the touchline and get balls into the box."

Staunton was still waiting for news of the extent of Steve Finnan's knee injury today. The full-back remained in Liverpool with a final decision expected to be made before the team flies to Bratislava.

Fellow defender John O'Shea failed to finish training at Malahide on Wednesday afternoon due to a bruised knee, although Staunton stressed his withdrawal was purely a precautionary measure.

Belfast Telegraph


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