Saturday 18 November 2017

'Friendly' derby holds no fears for settled McGeady

The Merseyside derby will not faze Everton's Aidam McGeady. Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
The Merseyside derby will not faze Everton's Aidam McGeady. Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

There is no danger of Aiden McGeady being fazed by the intensity of today's Merseyside showdown. Growing up in a derby culture has conditioned him towards these occasions.

As a son of Glasgow, the Ireland international lived and breathed in an environment where your place in the city rivalry effectively became your identity.

He had a brief taste of the biggest show in his new surroundings in January, figuring as a late substitute in a 4-0 defeat to a then rampant Liverpool side. And he expects a serious atmosphere at lunchtime today as both protagonists seek a result to kickstart their seasons.

That Anfield cameo came at a time when McGeady was still adjusting to the pace of English football following an inactive end to his Spartak Moscow foray.

In the subsequent eight months, he has settled into the Everton group and also learned a little more about the traditions of this particular derby.

"Liverpool is very similar to Glasgow as a city," says the 28-year-old, who moved closer to Manchester earlier this month after his original landlord sold the house that he was renting.

"I haven't been into Liverpool too much but it is a place where most people will notice you and say hi and wish you luck. It was like that even when I wasn't in the side. But like Glasgow it has two teams, very football-orientated. Celtic-Rangers is a different rivalry, though, with the religious aspect behind it, whereas you notice that Liverpool-Everton can have families who could be half and half. That's not to say it isn't a fierce rivalry. It is, but I suppose it's just that bit more friendly. Having been brought up in Glasgow as a Celtic fan, I couldn't really compare them."

The standard of football may be the highest he has experienced on a regular basis but, for McGeady, there's a certain tranquility to his existence.

After travelling from the goldfish bowl of living in Old Firm land to the culture shock of Moscow, he is enjoying the sanity of a more straightforward home life.

It's the little things that make a difference. The hero of Ireland's opening Euro 2016 win in Tbilisi knows that before the next international gathering for the games with Gibraltar and Germany, he will have the opportunity to fit in a drive to Glasgow and an overnight stay before coming across to Dublin.

The commute from Moscow pretty much made that impossible, and impinged on his sleeping patterns. His circumstances now lend themselves to a stress-free situation that has allowed him to concentrate on his football, and the improvements are obvious.

That said, he is conscious that he will have to sit out some matches this term as Roberto Martinez manages his options.

McGeady met his summer target of forcing himself into the side for the Premier League opener at Leicester. But a goalscoring display was not enough to keep him in the side for their next battle with Arsenal.

"The manager pulled me aside before the Arsenal game, and said 'Look I'm really happy with the way you've played' but he said the team he went with against Arsenal at the back end of last season worked well and he wanted to play the same players because they got the formation right. We've seen there will be a bit of rotation. There's four players who can play wide, like myself, and we've got the Europa League games to factor in too."

McGeady's inclusion in the midweek League Cup defeat at Swansea could count against him with a view to today. Post-Swansea, the local media reports mentioned that McGeady needs to become more consistent, so he's still got a bit of work to do to impress his new parish.

The overall signs are positive, though, especially as he has the attacking versatility to impact the game from a number of different stations.

Martin O'Neill, like Martinez, has never considered McGeady a one trick pony and in Georgia that confidence paid off.

"My own view is that he can play in a number of positions," said the Ireland boss earlier this week. "He starts out wide right in the games for Everton and can shift in. It's great to have that versatility. You'd think that if he's not getting the kick of a ball out wide then that ability might be wasted. But he can adapt and play through the middle.

"I think now he's getting that confidence - and you wouldn't think he ever lacked it from speaking to him - he's playing more regularly than he has done for some time. His Russian experience will stand him in good stead but now he's playing where people can see him and he sees himself now as a proper player."

Three weeks after arguably the finest moment of his Irish career, he has an ideal opportunity to bring his Everton standing to another level.

Irish Independent

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