'I still get stick' - Aiden McGeady on choosing Ireland over Scotland and strained relationship with Gordon Strachan
Aiden McGeady has copped a lot of flak over the years for deciding against playing for the country of his birth.
The Glasgow-born 31-year-old, who qualifies to play for Ireland through his grandparents, has opened up about the abuse he suffered for not choosing the Tartan Army and what motivated his decision.
"I took it as a compliment. You know, when you're going away to Tynecastle, Ibrox and Fir Park, they're booing you when you get the ball. Take it as a compliment because if they didn't rate you, if they didn't think you were a good player, they wouldn't bother," the Sunderland winger told fellow ex-Celtic youth player Simon Ferry on Open Goal.
"Obviously, the whole Ireland situation happened when I was younger and I ended up choosing Ireland because Scotland said I couldn't play for them at that age and Ireland didn't have that policy.
"I ended up being comfortable, playing U15, U16, U17 and it was only when I got in the first team at Celtic it was like, 'Why is this guy playing for Ireland?' They tried to get me back to play with Scotland and I was like, 'No, I'm happy playing with Ireland.' To grow up with these guys and now go back on it...
"I still get stick for it. In a way I look at it now, I played at two Euros, you know what I mean; I played at two major finals. Obviously, Scotland haven't qualified for anything for a long time."
McGeady broke into the Celtic team under current Ireland boss Martin O'Neill in 2004 but didn't prove as popular with O'Neill's successor at Parkhead, Gordon Strachan.
It's fair to say that the pair didn't see eye-to-eye.
“We played Rangers at Ibrox and he [Strachan] stuck Paul Lawson on the bench ahead of me. I was raging. Tommy [Burns] pulled me aside and told me to show a little respect and to back my team-mates, which was fair enough.
“I went to go and see the manager on the Monday after and he just said, ‘nah, you’re not for me, you’re not my type of guy, you think you’re ahead of yourself’. So I asked to go out on loan and he said no. So I went back to playing reserves every week.
“I won him over just through working hard and keeping my head down. Eventually he came to see a reserve game and he pulled me aside and said, ‘well done, you’ve turned it around for yourself’. After that I was playing.
“Me and Strachan, it probably just a clash of personalities. I thought he singled me out a lot of the time. Unfair criticism and things like that.
“I felt I had to be playing well literally every single game to stay in the team, where as other players got a bit of leniency. Our relationship was always a bit strained.”
Sunderland boss Simon Grayson is certainly a fan of McGeady's and the diminutive winger will be hoping to continue the form he showed at the end of last season with Preston.