Revealed! The stunning stats behind Aiden McGeady's Sunderland return - and how he's the best in League One
We all thought Aiden McGeady’s time at Sunderland was over.
There was initially, of course, Phil Parkinson’s decision to isolate McGeady from first-team duties.
Then came the loan move to Charlton Athletic, who were playing in the Championship at the time.
It seemed to us all that there was no way back for McGeady… but he had other ideas.
The former Everton man was simply biding his time, believing the team would eventually need him.
And the call to arms came.
Following Parkinson’s sacking in November, he was handed a fresh slate by incoming head coach Lee Johnson.
Johnson’s faith in McGeady has been repaid – and then some.
Here, we take a look at the statistics behind McGeady’s metioric return to the Sunderland fold in recent months – and explore how the numbers only paint half of the picture surrounding his Stadium of Light renaissance.
Aiden McGeady is the best in League One on current form – the numbers don’t lie
Just one quick glance at the numbers will show you McGeady’s worth to Sunderland.
Since returning in December, McGeady has assisted 12 goals and netted four of his own, which puts him firmly on top of the assist charts for the season.
For context and comparison, Peterborough United’s Joe Ward has produced exactly the same figures as McGeady.
McGeady has played seven fewer games than the Posh attacker – a stunning and remarkable feat.
What is even more impressive is that McGeady has produced 37 chances to Ward’s 35, which illustrates just how prolific the Sunderland attacker is, even at 35-years-old.
In terms of assists per 90 minutes, a better measure of McGeady’s productivity due to games missed, the tricky winger ranks first with 0.56 assists per match.
Former Sunderland captain George Honeyman is also enjoying a decent season at table-topping Hull City.
The Academy of Light graduate has produced 12 assists too but has played in a whopping 15 more games than his old teammate.
McGeady also ranks high on the key passes per 90 minutes charts.
He comes in at fourth with 0.93 behind Doncaster Rovers man Josh Sims (1.07), Brandon Barker of Oxford United (0.99) and Plymouth Argyle man Adam Lewis (0.95).
When you consider McGeady’s output and the number of matches he has missed, there is a strong argument for him being the best pound-for-pound attacker in League One.
But what else does Aiden McGeady bring to this Sunderland team?
McGeady is a constant goal threat.
He has taken 50 shots on target this season and has been successful in 63.8% of his dribbles – that’s a whopping 196 completed runs with the ball.
Indeed, McGeady also has superb passing stats with 713 completed passes at an accuracy of 79%.
But if there was one criticism of the one-time Spartak Moscow winger over the years, it was that he gave away the ball too much.
That all seems to have changed this season with McGeady enjoying a battling and productive spell.
McGeady has lost the ball in his own half on just 22.2% of the occasions he has been in possession.
And it isn’t just going forward where McGeady brings value to Sunderland.
What is striking this season is his work out of possession.
He has won 504 duels this season with a success rate of 48%, alongside 30 aerial duels at a success rate of 46.7%.
Whilst these numbers aren’t anything flash, they prove that McGeady is doing his bit defensively in Johnson’s shape and system.
One off-the-ball statistic that really does stand out, however, is McGeady’s recoveries in the opposition half.
McGeady has won the ball back 83 times high up the pitch for Sunderland and has played a vital role in battling to get his side back on the front foot in games.
That’s an impressive average of 3.6 occasions per match.
The numbers only paint half the picture of Aiden McGeady’s Stadium of Light renaissance
As ever, though, statistics can only paint half of the picture surrounding McGeady’s renaissance at the Stadium of Light this season.
Whilst the attacking numbers are sublime, what is even more impressive is the manner of McGeady’s contribution.
In other words, there is little to no stat-padding from the former Republic of Ireland international.
McGeady is performing in Sunderland’s big games on a consistent basis which makes him invaluable to Johnson.
Who played the pass for Lynden Gooch’s winner at Wembley in the Papa John’s Trophy final?
Who netted a late free-kick to equalise and hand Sunderland a point against promotion rivals Peterborough United on Easter Monday?
Who – three days earlier and with the game in the balance at 1-1 – scored to put Sunderland ahead against Oxford United on Good Friday?
And who swung in the corner to be met by Aiden O’Brien against Bristol Rovers for the winner two weeks ago?
The answer is, of course, that man McGeady.
This, though, has been a theme throughout his four-year stint on Wearside.
I’m sure we all remember the two goals in the Checkatrade Trophy final against Portsmouth.
He even played through the pain of a broken foot to help Sunderland reach the play-off final back in 2019.
It remains to be seen if this means that McGeady, whose contract expires in the summer, will be offered fresh terms at the Stadium of Light.
One thing is for sure, however, if the Black Cats are to be promoted this season, McGeady will have played his part in getting them there.