McGeady told to push on and become 'world class'
Published 13/11/2013 | 01:00
MARTIN O'NEILL has challenged Aiden McGeady to become the player he threatened to be as a teenager.
The new Ireland boss gave McGeady his big breakthrough at Celtic and was convinced that he was working with a potentially "world-class" performer. Indeed, he famously uttered the line "Ronaldinho beware" when the winger introduced himself to Hoops fans with a dazzling performance against Hearts back in 2004.
O'Neill has tried to sign the 27-year-old on two occasions since then but was unable to stop him from going to Spartak Moscow and then failed in an attempt to bring him to Sunderland from Russia.
While he joked that McGeady can still be a "crabby" character at times, he is relishing the opportunity to work with him again and feels there is still time for the player – a reported transfer target for Southampton – to ascend to another level.
"He looked a wonderkid when he was 17 or 18 years of age," said O'Neill. "I remember one night he played against AC Milan when he was absolutely fantastic, a Champions League game. He had all the confidence in the world.
"Now Aiden doesn't lose confidence but it's just that sometimes I think in terms of his development, I would probably have expected Aiden to really be an absolutely world-class player now. I throw that phrase around with gay abandon but I would have expected him to have really pushed on.
"I've not seen a great deal of his games out in Russia but when I was at Aston Villa I was really interested in signing him at the time he was leaving Celtic to go there, and again at Sunderland I was interested. The fee was just too much.
"Spartak Moscow were asking too much. I still feel he has so much more to offer. I still think he's young enough to do it."
McGeady was an unused sub in the loss to Germany last month and then featured only briefly as a sub against Kazakhstan. He should take a more prominent role under O'Neill, who traditionally favours wingers but stressed that he is not bound to it.
"We have wide players here, a couple of gifted midfield players and we're going to be trying to see them at their best as much as anything," added O'Neill.