Ex-Sunderland striker reveals the man whose ‘magic’ will guide the Black Cats to automatic promotion
Aiden McGeady is a class above in League One and will prove the difference between Sunderland winning automatic promotion and the lottery of the play-offs.
That’s the view of former Sunderland striker Stephen Elliott, who has hailed the stunning impact of 11-goal McGeady this campaign.
McGeady missed the start of the season through injury and didn’t make his first appearance under Jack Ross until September 15 but has quickly made up for lost time.
And Elliott, who scored 22 goals in 81 appearances for the Black Cats between 2004-07, believes McGeady is the best player in League One and will prove the deciding factor when it comes to Sunderland’s promotion hopes.
Elliott told the Echo: “I think his goals alone have been really important for the team, he is the type of player that may frustrate at times but at this level he has moments of quality that not many players in this league have.
“He can change the course of the game in a split second, look at the Wimbledon game a few weeks back, it was a nothing game, a bit of magic from McGeady wins the game.
“I think he could be the difference between getting automatic and the play-offs.
“I have seen a lot of the League One teams and nobody has shown me what he has got, he may be getting on a bit but he still has the quality there.
“I don’t think anybody has the same quality in this league. I know Grant Leadbitter has come down and has different qualities but take the season as a whole, I just think McGeady has been the stand-out player in the league, he has that star quality and is a class above at this level.”
McGeady, 32, was recently recalled into the preliminary Republic of Ireland squad by Mick McCarthy for the upcoming international fixtures only to be cut from the final 23-man squad.
The winger is on 92 caps and Elliott is confident he can still reach the 100-cap milestone.
Elliott added: “If you watch him play, he works hard off the ball as well, which isn’t something you’d always think about with him, I think he has added that to his game.
“He has really brought into what the club is all about this year, last year was a bit stop start for him, he went off the boil a bit.
“You can tell he is really enjoying his football. McGeady could be a real impact player for Ireland, if he is playing full of confidence he can be a real threat.”
And on that 100-cap target?
Elliott added: “I’m sure he will have his own personal milestones that he would like to achieve and I’m glad he is getting the international recognition again.
“Previously at Sunderland it seemed like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders, this year he is playing with a lot of freedom.
“The lads look to him as one of the experienced players and if the game is not going quite the way they want to then he can take the ball and become the leader.
“I have spoken to a few of the lads and they speak really highly of him.”
Sunderland now have a break from League One action and don’t play again in the league until the Wednesday after the Checkatrade Trophy final, when they travel to face Accrington Stanley.
The start of a busy end-to-the-season for the Black Cats as they look to chase down Barnsley and Luton Town in the automatic promotion spots.