Phil Smith: Aiden McGeady ready to take centre stage and Sunderland must hope Callum McManaman follows same path

Callum McManaman.
Callum McManaman.
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If there was any comfort to be taken from Sunderland’s desperate defeat to Sheffield United, it was the immediate verve Callum McManaman brought to the field in a breezy cameo.

An old-fashioned winger rarely seen in the modern game, he was the first to put the Blades defence under pressure and on the turn.

These are still very early days in Simon Grayson’s tenure but it is already clear that in an attacking sense, he will require his wingers to put doubts over consistency behind them and deliver consistent end product.

Above all else, he will hope that McManaman is a the beginning of the same journey Aiden McGeady took last season at Preston, from Premier League cast off to Championship star, reborn with the thirst for success that can only come after a time out of the limelight.

McManaman was the latest casualty of a Premier League where new is always better. Shortly before his departure from West Brom, the Baggies spent £13 million on Oliver Burke, a superb talent but one with only a fraction of the experience possessed by FA Cup winger McManaman.

This is what Simon Grayson’s transfer policy, hamstrung by financial problems, boils down to, trusting that the decline in the careers of these players says more about the environment they found themselves in than the players themselves.

Unpalatable as it is, the only way we will find out whether that is right is with time.

It was fascinating to listen to Sheffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal speak in the build-up of the 1-1 draw last month. The Portugese boss is always good value, known to run press conferences to at least five times the length of most managers.

This was no different, Carvalhal responding to an anodyne question about whether he needed another centre-back by speaking for four minutes about his difficulty in introducing players to a side competing for promotion.

There was no room for passengers, and so players arriving short of match fitness never got the time they needed to succeed.

He mentioned Aiden McGeady, pointing out that he had spoken with a coach who admitted the Irishman had been poor in his first games, but eventually came good.

Clearly, said manager was Simon Grayson.

Away from the pressure of the top end of the table, Grayson was at Deepdale able to give McGeady the time to ease his way back into action, one of many players who struggled in a torrid six match losing streak only to find power and quality over the winter period.

Carvalhal also mentioned Callum McManaman in the same breath, another player who could not get the time he needed to rebuild at Sheffield Wednesday.

Having made less than 30 senior appearances in the last two seasons, he will need a run of games to truly rediscover the instincts and confidence that made him such a well regarded talent in his early career.

The problem for his manager, of course, is that the pressure Carvalhal faced at Hillsborough is much the same as he faces here at the Stadium of Light.

The demands and expectations make it harder to grow back into the game as McGeady did away from the glare at Deepdale.

The 31-year-old is now truly ready to take centre stage, and Sunderland must hope McManaman can follow the same path.