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Stephen Hunt: Liberated display against Georgia gives us reasons to be positive


Aiden McGeady celebrates after scoring Ireland's opening goal during the Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia in Tbilisi. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Aiden McGeady celebrates after scoring Ireland's opening goal during the Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia in Tbilisi. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire


Aiden McGeady celebrates after scoring Ireland's opening goal during the Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia in Tbilisi. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

It's a cliche but Aiden McGeady would sometimes do things in training that brought a session to a halt. It might have been a piece of skill or a finish but we would all look on in awe when he did it. Well, nearly all of us would look on in awe.

One man was never impressed, one man was always looking for something else when we were looking at Aiden McGeady and thinking that the kid had everything. Giovanni Trapattoni never looked on in awe.

Those moments meant nothing to Trapattoni. Sometimes he might say 'Bravo Aiden' but I was never sure he meant it. He would mean it when he lost his cool if Aiden wasn't paying attention during set-pieces. Those things mattered to Trap and he certainly didn't care if McGeady delivered those moments of awe-inspiring skill when it came to a game.

When it came to a match, Trap was in awe of different qualities which may be why I started so many games away from home.

I like 4-4-2, it's a system I know well but Trapattoni never played a normal 4-4-2. For example, in a normal 4-4-2 as the ball moved up the right, my first thought would be to move forward on the left hand side. But Trap's 4-4-2 was never normal. Trap's 4-4-2 required the wide midfielders to stay close to the central midfielders, never to go forward unless there was no risk. And Trap always saw a risk.

From the first training session, this was the thing that you learned with Trap. We would have long sessions of 11 v 11 and they were all about positioning, with Trap and Marco Tardelli prowling and placing players where they wanted them to be. Maybe Aiden might have done one of his pieces of skill in these sessions and Trap would already be moving on to where he wanted you to stand to protect the midfield.

On Sunday in Tbilisi, Aiden wasn't playing in a 4-4-2 and he certainly wasn't playing in a Trap 4-4-2. People talk a lot about formations and line-ups but the important thing is emphasis. We had players who could play football under Trap, but you learned one thing early on: you did it Trap's way or you didn't play. He might not notice a bit of skill but he'd notice if you weren't tucking in and tracking back.

Aiden was allowed some more freedom last weekend. There's no way he would have found himself in the position for the first goal in Trap's system. It came from a long ball, but under Trap he would have been tucked in on the left. Under Martin O'Neill, in a 4-2-3-1, he had freedom to get forward and display the kind of skill we saw so often in training.

At dinner in the hotel, we'd often talk about something McGeady had done in training, marvel at his quick feet and some players wouldn't go near him in case he would do his magic, although it never bothered me. There isn't frustration when a player doesn't deliver because you know he could do it, but we used to see McGeady do things and think of Ronaldinho.

Aiden could be grumpy but I think he became more grumpy as people questioned his failure to deliver. Under Martin O'Neill, that could change. I know what it's like to have a manager who believes in you. I had it with Steve Coppell and it changes everything. You feel a freedom that has nothing to do with tactics and you suddenly deliver on what was only training ground potential.

Some training sessions can have the intensity of matches, but none of them ever replicate the feeling of a game so some players find it easier to display their skills in those sessions.

Aiden's second goal could have been from a training session. I had seen him mesmerise defenders with skill like that a hundred times but he may be now benefiting from working with a manager who believes in him.

I believe McGeady has the talent to be our Messi. He has so much ability, but now he needs to be allowed go and play. Ronaldo doesn't track back and Messi doesn't need to put in tackles and Aiden would benefit from the same kind of liberation. The system Ireland played last weekend suited him perfectly.

The important thing for Ireland and Martin O'Neill was that they got a win, playing with a different system and that the player who was liberated by it scored the two goals.

There is no right and wrong way of playing, and no player should come first in any system so if things change for the next game, that's the way the manager wants it.

People might have grown tired of Trap - and the players wanted to play as much as anyone - but they had got used to the system and would have quietly queried any changes if they didn't produce results. Instead Ireland had three points and everyone - including Aiden McGeady - had a little bit more belief.

Sunday Indo Sport