Sunderland AFC verdict: Jack Ross pinpoints key factor behind Aiden McGeady form as stand-in skipper shows his class

Aiden McGeady celebrates his goal. Pictures by Frank Reid.Aiden McGeady celebrates his goal. Pictures by Frank Reid.
Aiden McGeady celebrates his goal. Pictures by Frank Reid.
Aiden McGeady's CV in football speaks for itself.

Spells at Celtic, Spartak Moscow, Everton, title wins, Champions League experience, 92 caps for the Republic of Ireland.

An impressive career and it is no surprise the vastly experienced 32-year-old winger is proving to be a key player for Sunderland this season.

Aiden McGeady scores against Walsall.Aiden McGeady scores against Walsall.
Aiden McGeady scores against Walsall.

In recent weeks McGeady has been the star performer.

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With his pedigree, quality and experience McGeady should be one of - if not the - best player in League One.

And he’s proving it, with another impressive showing, though this time in the FA Cup second round tie at Walsall.

The Saddlers defence couldn’t handle him first half.

Six goals in his last seven games, McGeady scored at the Banks’s Stadium for the second consecutive Saturday.

It is testament to his character that he is rolling his sleeves up and doing his utmost to ensure Sunderland enjoy a successful campaign.

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Skipper George Honeyman missed the game with an ankle knock.

Max Power would have been a contender for the armband but Ross was keen for Power - playing after his red card at Walsall the week prior was overturned - to concentrate on playing.

Ross has spoken highly of McGeady since taking charge and with the armband on, he once again led from the front.

Ross said: "When you have a squad like mine with a number of players who can take on that duty and that role, it allowed me to let Max just focus on getting back and playing.

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“I think he knows that and appreciated that. He wants to get back into the flow of playing and he has missed a good chunk as well.

“I didn’t have any concerns about the game, Max being back here.

“Aiden has been great for me on the training pitch and his contribution on the park so it was nice for him to have that responsibility and he took that on during the game as well.”

Promotion from League One is the priority but an extended FA Cup run would be a welcome boost to the coffers.

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When McGeady, who missed pre-season with a calf injury, fired Sunderland ahead eight minutes before half-time, the Black Cats were in command and heading into the third round.

Walsall rallied and enjoyed a vastly improved second half, Sunderland second best for much of it. Ross believes the recent gruelling schedule had contributed to the sluggish second half performance.

Andy Cook, a Newcastle United fan, was kept quiet first half by Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin but he was a nuisance after the break and dominated the duo in the air.

He fired home Walsall’s equaliser eight minutes after the break and the hosts had further chances to win the game, Morgan Ferrier denied by Jon McLaughlin before Cook then hit the woodwork.

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Sunderland carved out their own half chances but in the end nothing could separate the two sides, following the 2-2 draw in League One seven days prior.

They will battle for a third time a week on Tuesday.

And don’t bet against McGeady playing a key role as Sunderland look to make the hat for the third round of the FA Cup.

On McGeady’s incredible run of form, Ross added: “He’s enjoying his football. I’m really pleased with him, his application, his workrate, and then his quality has never been in doubt.

“He’s also got hunger and you can see the area he scored the goal from - it’s not as though he scored it from standing out wide, he got himself into the box and beyond the post.

“That is reflective of where he is at at the moment.”

And long may it continue.