McGeady prepares to answer Moscow call
AIDEN McGEADY is set to finalise a move to Spartak Moscow after running out of patience with the James Milner saga, which appears to have scuppered his dream switch to Aston Villa.
Celtic boss Neil Lennon last night said that his "best player" is ready to overcome his doubts and throw in his lot in with the Russians -- a development which will leave the door open for his international team-mate Liam Lawrence to take his place in Glasgow.
Giovanni Trapattoni has given McGeady permission to skip Wednesday's friendly with Argentina in order to sort out his future.
The Celtic star was trying to hold out for the completion of Milner's protracted flirtation with Manchester City, which would provide Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill with the funds to bring McGeady to Birmingham.
Alas, Lennon's comments indicate that Spartak have landed the 24-year-old in a £9.5m deal. "I've spoken to Aiden since he came back and, from what I can gather, he'll go to Moscow," he said.
"He seemed a lot more settled and he said he liked what he saw there. I'd like to think, the way he was talking, this is the club he will go to unless something happens last minute."
The only development that could alter proceedings would be an acceleration of Milner's situation.
Either way, it's good news for Lawrence, who had earlier confirmed that the Milner impasse had impacted upon his planned move away from Stoke. "I think you've hit the nail on the head," he said, when it was put to him directly.
He has been told that if McGeady leaves Parkhead, then his move from Stoke to Glasgow will happen.
Lawrence sent a few good-natured texts to McGeady before he went to Moscow for a look around, with a knowing smile suggesting that he was encouraging his pal to go for it.
Certainly, Celtic's Champions League loss to Braga hasn't removed his desire to embrace a change of scenery in Scotland.
"I'm not one of those players who says they wants to move because a club is in the Champions League," he stated.
"I want to move for football reasons. I want a new challenge and if it comes about then I'll be chomping at the bit to achieve things at Celtic because they need to push on this year and win things again."
In the same breath, however, he mischievously added that if he was McGeady, he'd join Spartak -- in part because they offer Champions League action.
For now, though, Lawrence is a Stoke player and has enjoyed his pre-season although, understandably, given that he is unlikely to start in their Premier League opener with Wolves, he's not too bothered about this international window -- even if club bosses across the water are tearing their hair out about the timing.
Indeed, the 28-year-old is keen to build on the momentum of his international displays last term, where he broke into Trapattoni's starting XI for the crunch meetings with France and Italy and maintained the form into the summer friendlies. He watched the World Cup and is honest enough to point out that he enjoyed France's demise. Overall though, it merely reaffirmed his belief that Ireland should have qualified, and simply must make it to the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine.
"It has to happen," he says. "After coming so close the last time, it's imperative that we go through and push on. We surprised some big teams, but we should have gone through.
"I think Wednesday's game is going to be tough, but it's something we need before it kicks off in September. I look forward to it -- as a professional, the timing doesn't bother me. It's only an hour on the plane."
Circumstances mean that Trapattoni won't be able to field the side that he'd envisage starting in the opening qualifier in Armenia on September 3.
He wants to take a further look at newcomers like Greg Cunningham and Paul Green anyway, so he's not too perturbed about the absence of Glenn Whelan and Sean St Ledger through injury.
Richard Dunne and Kevin Doyle missed training in Malahide yesterday, with the former taking a knock on his knee and the latter suffering from a calf complaint. The Irish boss reckons they will be fine.
The 71-year-old is aware that his Premier League counterparts are unhappy about the scheduling of this game, yet he will use the opportunity to learn more about the depth of his squad.
"It's a FIFA date," he said." And I think it's better to have this game before we start the qualification. It's important for us.
"We saw Paul Green against Algeria, and he played well. The last time, also, we saw (Keith) Fahey and he showed us his personality. We have to look at our options."
Argentina will train behind closed doors at Carton House today, with Lionel Messi a late arrival after fulfilling club commitments with Barcelona in Asia.