McGeady will hope to buck weak winger trend

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Malcolm Couzens/Getty ImagesAiden McGeady, left, has made a bright start at Everton and given the club's paucity of quality wide players, he'll need to keep it up.

Everton have not had much luck with mercurial wingers of late. Royston Drenthe and Andy van der Meyde, the two most recent and high-profile examples, provided little else besides their own systematic guides for how not to approach Premier League football.

Both possessed talent in abundance -- van der Meyde featured for Ajax and Inter Milan while Drenthe once graced the books of Real Madrid -- but the pair lacked the necessary discipline.

Before that, there was a line of Swedes, although most played like turnips. Only Anders Limpar threatened anything remotely like an impact in the mid-90s, with Jesper Blomqvist and Niclas Alexandersson unable to stamp their mark on the team in the years that followed.

There were unconventional wide players along the way, such as Kevin Kilbane or Simon Davies, but these men also failed to deliver the required high level of consistency. After the conventional and the unconventional disappointed, alternative methods consisted of players pressed into unfamiliar roles. James McFadden and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov could deliver the spectacular on occasion, yet both looked lost on the flanks.

In fact, Andrei Kanchelskis is, arguably, the only winger within the last two decades to come close to offering the kind of exciting wing-play expected from those out wide. His Everton career was shortlived but the first season saw a player at his peak, delivering sixteen goals from midfield.

Ironically, though, given the panache for placing square pegs in round holes over the years, the two biggest successes were also better in other areas. Before injury robbed him of any remnants of pace, Mikel Arteta excelled on the right and left while Steven Pienaar has made the left-sided role into his own.

Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty ImagesDinyar Bilyaletdinov was one of many to try, and fail, as an Everton winger.


Having witnessed the bad and the bewildering in recent years -- Steve Watson and Seamus Coleman spring to mind -- the hope is that the newest addition, Aiden McGeady, can buck the now familiar trend of disappointing wingmen.

Entering the final six months of his contract, McGeady arrived from Spartak Moscow in the January window. Already securing a move to Merseyside in the summer, the player and the club pushed for the move early with all parties favouring this option.

After three appearances on the road -- two from the bench, the other from the start -- McGeady made his full home debut on Saturday against Aston Villa. Overall, the performance can be filled in the middle of the road category; good and bad countered each other throughout his 87-minute outing.

That said, his early dribble and subsequent shot against the post hinted at the undoubted ability lurking beneath the surface. Tiring in the second half, which is understandable for a player lacking both fitness and match sharpness due to his ill-fated spell in Russia, McGeady began to concede possession whilst attempting to beat the opposing full-back.

Refreshingly, though -- and this is something many of the wingers gone before often neglected -- McGeady quickly tracked back in an attempt to regain the ball. The frustration evident when errors crept into his second half performance points toward a player with the correct attitude.

Able to operate on either flank, McGeady has the kind of versatility welcomed at Goodison. The squad remains short on numbers, especially with the injury list yet to fully clear, and that makes this deal a shrewd one.

Comfortable with both feet, McGeady is capable of the spectacular and the unexpected. The former Celtic player joins Kevin Mirallas and the fit-again Gerard Deulofeu in this regard, and supporters will hope he has a similar impact to the aforementioned.

Furthermore, the midfield man has a ringing endorsement from the best in the business, albeit back in 2008. As Barcelona prepared to face Celtic in the Champions League, Lionel Messi spoke to the Daily Record about McGeady, pinpointing him as the danger man within the opposition ranks.

"Aiden McGeady is a fast and skilful winger and someone I rate highly," said the Barca star. "We will have to be very careful with him because his movement can be special and he has a great ability to appear in goalscoring positions out of the blue."

Messi continued, "I really like the way he plays football. He is a natural talent, who can create a brilliant piece of play in the blink of an eye and I can assure you our defenders will be paying very close attention to him."

Edging towards fitness, having last played a competitive match in November, McGeady will need time and patience in these early stages. Once full fitness is achieved, however, all concerned will be wearing a smile if McGeady lives up to the words of Messi.

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