Aiden McGeady on giving Will Grigg that penalty, the striker’s impressive start and where Sunderland stand in promotion push

Aiden McGeady hopes it will be prove to be an important moment in the season.

Thursday, 21st February 2019, 6:00 am

Will Grigg getting off the mark and Sunderland getting back to winning ways.

It was a frustrating week, one in which Sunderland’s performances significantly improved but the results did not follow.

The 4-2 win over Gillingham was a satisfying resolution and has improved the mood on Wearside significantly.

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Grigg’s first goal since joining the Black Cats was the very welcome bonus.

For McGeady, a vital player for Sunderlnd and Jack Ross so far this season, it was all about the bigger picture.

“Will [Grigg] wanted the ball and it crossed my mind that he’s not scored,” he said.

“That’s important for a striker and for me the biggest thing is us getting out of this division, it’s not about me scoring more than anyone else.

“I wanted him to score to get himself off the mark and get that monkey off his back. He’d had some chances and hadn’t scored yet, he was a big signing who cost a lot of money and whatever.

“I want him to score [that penalty] and I want him to score 20 goals this season. It’s not about me scoring more goals than anyone else so I was like, ‘No problem – score, get yourself off the mark.’

“It’s better for the team if he gets himself off the mark and that’s the way I look at it.”

The goal was particularly important because on the whole, Grigg has already made a big impression.

He has added a different dimension to Sunderland’s attack, with Jack Ross often concerned this season that most of his attacking players want to drop deep and influence the game that way.

That’s a positive in many ways but places a lot of onus on the likes of Grigg and Watmore to stretch the game and provide an outlet.

Grigg has done that well so far and if he can build some goalscoring momentum, Sunderland know what a weapon he will be in the push for promotion.

“Strikers are judged by goals,” McGeady said.

“If you look at his performances, you’d come away from the games saying, ‘Griggy did well’ but the headline will probably be that he missed a couple of chances. He scored on Tuesday and the headline will be that he’s off the mark.

“Hopefully now that’s the springboard for him. Hopefully he can be that guy to get us 10, 15 goals between now and the end of the season.”

McGeady said at the time of Grigg’s arrival that it was a massive bonus for the squad, given the importance of Josh Maja’s finishing in the first half of the campaign.

They are two very different players but the end result will hopefully be something similar.

“It’s hard to take that many goals out of your team midway through the season, regardless of what you thought of Maja’s all-round game,” McGeady said.

“If you get him a chance in the box, he scores. He’s an unbelievable finisher.

“Griggy’s a different kind of striker who probably runs more channels than Maj, a different type of hold-up play.

“In the last couple of games he’s just been unlucky, he’s not got that goal.

“He had a few chances and it just didn’t fall properly for him but now he’s scored, which is great.”

The margins were fine in those two frustrating draws before Gillingham’s visit but the mood behind the scenes mained positive.

McGeady was fully aware of the frustration building on Wearside and hopes Tuesday night’s win can prove to be a turning point, particularly as it finally converted a good eperformanc to three points.

“I hope so,” he said.

“I understand we’re on paper probably seen as the strongest team in the division and when you’re not winning games everyone inside the club, not just the fans, feel the pressure.

“Everyone wants to be promoted, that’s where we want to be. Sometimes you have to be patient.”

“The positivity from the manager and in the group over the last week or so is that the performances have been better, albeit we’ve not been getting the rewards,” he said.

“Tonight overall I thought we played really well, it was disappointing to lose a couple of goals which obviously sets us back a bit but I think the performance clicked tonight.”

The manager has been consistent in his belief during the week that his team were improving and McGeady praised his approach.

“If the manager was coming out and criticising the players – which he never does – you might see a little bit of a break in the dressing room if you want to call it that,” he said.

“We had some words after Friday’s game but it wasn’t anyone singling anyone out, just a discussion about what we think we can do better. I think it was good for the team.

“Tuesday was a much-needed three points, especially seeing other results. Let’s just see how we go.”

The 32-year-old stressed that there is still just under a third of the season to play and so there remains a significant chance of promotion.

He has emerged as a leader on and off the pitch this season, a regular since returning to the side from injury at Burton Albion.

He is not a loud voice behind the scenes, but in his own words, if something needs saying, he’ll say it.

Jack Ross has welcomed that and his vast experience in the game will be key as the Black Cats navigate the pressure of the final months of the season.

At a club the size of Sunderland, that is a new challenge for some players in the squad and McGeady has urged them to embrace it.

“I can understand playing at a big club when things aren’t going right on the pitch, the crowd and everything else around about it can suck you in a little bit,” he said.

“I understand that because I’ve played at Celtic, Spartak Moscow and Everton – you can feel it on the pitch sometimes It’s down to the individual whether he can rise above that and think, ‘I don’t care what I hear off the pitch or what I see in the papers, I’m just going to play my game and do what the manager trusts me to do.’

“This season’s been good because there’s been a lot of changes, a lot of players left and new players come in and it’s probably the first time for a lot of players playing at a club with such demands but I think everyone’s taken it in their stride so far.

“There’s still almost a third of the season to go. We’re going to treat it like 14, 15 games to get ourselves promoted.”