Dylan McGeouch opens up on his big summer decision and why he's staying at Sunderland
For much of the summer, Dylan McGeouch’s Sunderland future seemed in doubt.
The midfielder had given a candid interview to the Scottish press after the play-off final, still bruised from the disappointment of not making the matchday squad.
Aberdeen, Hibernian and a number of others were on red alert.
It had been a frustrating season, in which he had thrived in parts but struggled for consistency and regular minutes in others.
Jack Ross always believed in his abilities, but at times he also urged him to be more aggressive and get at the game more.
As pre-season kicked off, however, Ross was surprisingly direct in addressing the issue.
He wanted to keep McGeouch, of that he was adamant.
Suitors got the message and began to look elsewhere for their new midfielders. The summer break, it seemed, gave all a welcome chance to get perspective and assess where to go next.
McGeouch says that after dealing with any lingering disappointment, he knew exactly what he wanted to do next.
“It was obviously disappointing towards the end of the season, for the club as well,” he said.
“Personally I obviously didn't have much gametime towards the end.
“It's something you go away and think about, you recap on the season, what you can do better and [deal with that] frustration.
“I wanted to prove that I can play in this team, to prove to the manager that I could come back in pre-season and work as hard as I could and put myself in his plans.
“Hopefully I can do that.
“I've played a lot of minutes and I'm looking forward to the season starting,” he added.
“Really, it's up to me.
“I've got to prove myself and hopefully I can do that.”
The manager’s message was crucial, too.
“Of course [Ross was important],” he said.
“You always want to feel wanted, the way the season ended was disappointing but everyone went away, took time out and reflected on it.
“As I said, I was determined to come back and prove myself.
“The manager gave me that opportunity, said that he wanted me to come back and prove myself.
“Hopefully I've done that and can keep doing that, and keep pushing myself as much as I can,” he said.
“It's a healthy position for the manager, because as much I'm pushing everyone else is pushing.
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“Hopefully we can push each other and get the results on the pitch.”
Competition will be no less severe in that part of the pitch even though Lee Cattermole has left the club.
Elliot Embleton and Ethan Robson have returned from their loan spells hungry for minutes and a chance to impress. Grant Leadbitter has started pre-season with typical poise.
McGeouch, too, has looked in good order.
Sunderland’s new system places heavy emphasis on the midfielders to look after the ball and be ambitious when the time arrives, switching the ball into the wide areas or looking to spring one of the forwards into space.
It’s a role that should suit 26-year-old and there were some encouraging signs against Belenenses.
McGeouch is confident about what he is seeing from the squad, even if the end result on Saturday night was a narrow defeat.
“You don't read into the result too much,” he said.
“You want to win but it's all about getting minutes, topping people up with that gametime.
“We're working at that system and improving every game, I think we've got better. We've got fitter and stronger, buying into what the manager wants us to do.
“We had a good few chances in the first half and then obviously both teams make a lot of changes and the game dies out a little bit,” he added.
“There's a lot of positives to take.
“It's not about playing one system, it's about being able to adapt to different styles, different places and personnel.
“It's something to have in the locker, it's good to have that.
“We’ve still got the bulk of the squad here, adding a couple. We’re a strong squad, a good bunch of lads,
“Obviously it was disappointing the way the season ended last year but we’re building. Hopefully this year we’re a better team for that disappointment, we can learn from it and move on. We know what the league is about, adapt with different systems and hopefully that can help us push forward.”
McGeouch’s comments after that Charlton defeat reflected an understandable frustration, but even then there was a sign of his determination to put it right.
“If I could turn the clock back I would still have made the same move,” he said.
“I totally stick by the move I made.
“This is a great club, a massive club. You see the fans who have been up and down the country all season and it has been fantastic. This is a club that is in a league where it shouldn’t be. It is just about us getting there.
“I still believe I can play a part in helping Sunderland be successful. I believed that all year and I feel I can bring something to the team. I still strongly believe that.”
He went on to take up the additional year on his contract, and these latest words underline his determination to get it right.
If he does, Ross will have massive asset in the push for promotion.