Everything we know so far about Phil Parkinson's shock Aiden McGeady decision and where it leaves Sunderland
Aiden McGeady has been told he can leave Sunderland in January and is currently not training with the first-team group.
The latest major development comes with Phil Parkinson under increasing pressure to try and rescue a season that is unravelling at a frightening rate for supporters.
So what’s happened and what does it mean?
We take a closer look…
What’s happened & why?
Phil Parkinson confirmed on Thursday afternoon that Aiden McGeady will not be considered for selection, either against Blackpool this weekend or for any upcoming fixture.
Parkinson added that he had informed McGeady and his agent that he will be free to leave the club in January.
The Sunderland boss said that it was not related to one specific incident, and factors both on and off the pitch had played a part in his hugely controversial decision.
McGeady was an unused substitute as Sunderland limped to a 1-0 defeat to Gillingham last weekend, and it’s understood that the issue came to a head in the early part of the week.
McGeady was sent away from the training ground and has not been back to train this week.
He will not train with the first team group again under Parkinson, who said repeatedly at his press conference that he intends to ‘concentrate on the players that are here’.
Fundamentally, Parkinson believes the decision will help improve the atmosphere at the Academy of Light and bring the senior squad closer together, who he feels have found McGeady to be a divisive figure.
Privately and publicly, he has insisted it is an essential call to help lift Sunderland from their current slump.
Poor performances on the pitch have led fans to question the spirit behind the scenes, and that was heightened when a passionate Grant Leadbitter spoke of the need for unity
after Sunderland were dumped out fo the leasing.com trophy by Scunthorpe United.
Parkinson agreed with that sentiment and while he has regularly praised the ‘core’ group at the Academy of Light, he again highlighted the need for improvement on Thursday.
He said: “When you are on a bad run of results, things like that [cliques] emerge more.
“Is it the greatest dressing room I have ever been a part of? Probably not.
“Can we find a way to increase that spirit? Definitely.
“Every team needs that togetherness and spirit. We have a good group who can create that, that is what we are working towards.”
Is it the right call?
McGeady’s performances have certainly dipped this season but he remains the club’s top scorers and in truth, he is part of a forward line that has almost universally struggled for form this season.
It is worth remembering too, that this is the second time in consecutive seasons that McGeady has had no pre-season campaign due to injury.
Last season, he was thrown straight into action at Burton Albion and went on to be voted player of the season by supporters, also shortlisted for the League One player of the season award. The wingers was given a lot of responsibility by Ross, the winger praising the Black Cats boss for his open dialogue and approach. The pair formed an ultimately fruitful relationship, winning manager and player of the month in February.
Towards the end of the season, McGeady played with a broken bone in his foot in an attempt to get Sunderland’s promotion push over the line.
That problem persisted into the current campaign and left him again short of fitness.
His form has declined considerably since Parkinson arrived, culminating in his snub for the game last weekend.
It's a major gamble by Parkinson at a time when his side is struggling desperately for quality in possession and in front of goal.
His hope is clearly that the decision will spark a reaction from a squad that has performed so poorly for much of his twelve-game tenure, but it is a huge call given the troubles the team finds itself in.
McGeady has had a mixed time at Sunderland, peripheral in the season the Black Cats were relegated due to a deeply uneasy relationship with Chris Coleman, but last season he showed than he can be a leader on the pitch and one of the most effective players in the division.
Will Sunderland find a buyer?
The biggest issue for Sunderland is that only months ago, they extended McGeady’s contract by another year.
McGeady stressed how he was enjoying his football on Wearside and speaking to supporters in the summer, Stewart Donald cited the experienced winger’s respect for Jack Ross as one reason why he retained faith in the Black Cats boss.
As such, he still has over 18 months to run on his deal and as such, moving him on will not be straightforward.
He is one of the top earners at the club, even if his wages have reduced significantly from the level they were at when Simon Grayson brought him to the club following relegation from the Premier League.
So Sunderland are by no means in a strong position in looking to move him on.
Regardless of the rights or wrongs around the decision, it’s another scenario that highlights the lack of joined-up thinking and effective planning behind the scenes.
Parkinson is a manager clearly in need of a reaction from his players and took full responsibility for the decision when speaking on Thursday.
It’s a move that further underlines Stewart Donald’s determination to back his manager and see him turn things around on Wearside after a woeful start to his tenure.
More broadly, it’s a clear reflection of a side that and a club that has regressed at an alarming rate since narrowly missing out on promotion last season.
Whether Parkinson will be proved correct in his calculation that this will drive the team on remains to be seen, but for now, a struggling squad looks set to lose arguably its best player for the second consecutive January window.
Even if the 33-year-old has been well short of his best this season, it’s a gamble that only serves to raise the pressure on the key decision makers at the club.