Aiden McGeady: Sunderland winger on being booed around Scotland and potential Celtic return

Aiden McGeady in action for Republic of Ireland against Scotland in 2014
Aiden McGeady in action for Republic of Ireland against Scotland in 2014

"I was getting booed in every away ground in Scotland every time I touched the ball."

Aiden McGeady still smarts when asked about the reception he got for choosing Republic of Ireland during his days with Celtic.

Now 36 and out of contract with Sunderland this summer after their promotion from League One, he made 93 international appearances, scoring five goals, and played at two European Championship tournaments.

The Scots-born winger qualified through his grandparents and had made the decision long before his first cap in 2004.

When a rule preventing young Celtic players from representing Scotland's schoolboys led Pat Bonner to invite him to train with the Republic's Under-15s, it felt like a an easy choice -one he would not be comfortable going back on.

"I made the decision when I was 14," he told BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound. "It's not like I did it at 18.

"Scotland had those rules that you couldn't play for your school team, but Ireland didn't. 'Packie' Bonner knew my dad and my grandparents and asked if I wanted to play for Ireland.

"I just went with Ireland and that was it. I knew all of the boys and I liked the set up.

"It was when I got in the first team, it was like 'oh my god how is this guy not playing for Scotland?' But that was why. It's not as if I'd just made the decision.

"I'd get it everywhere I went off the park too; 'traitor, turncoat, Judas'.

"It's just small-minded individuals, that's all it is. Other players did the same, like Scott Arfield [Canada] or Brian McLean [Northern Ireland] and they didn't get the abuse I got. Was it because I played for Celtic, because I played for Ireland?

"In a way, it's a compliment because, if they didn't think you were a good player, they wouldn't bother."

Celtic 'regret' but not right time

While McGeady has no regrets over his international career, there is a pang about missing out on the chance to play for Celtic again.

After almost 200 matches, three league titles, two Scottish Cups and two League Cups, he was sold to Spartak Moscow in 2010.

Following three seasons without a trophy in Russia, he moved to Everton, where he was used sparingly and had loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Preston North End before his 2017 move to Sunderland.

"When I was at Everton, I had the chance to go back," says McGeady, who is currently studying for a masters degree in sporting directorship and already has a B license in coaching.

"At the time, I was probably being fed things by the manager that I was eventually going to play more often, plus I did think 'if I go back now, that's me almost turning my back on England'. I still thought deep down 'I can play here'.

"The circumstances just weren't quite right. Ronnie Deila was the manager, I was looking at the team and the way they were playing and I thought 'I'm not really sure I want to go back just yet'.

"Obviously I would have loved to have gone back at another time, when it was right for everybody, but that opportunity never came up again.

"I regret that it meant I didn't get to play for Celtic again, but at the time, no."

Everything you need to know about your Premier League team bannerBBC Sport banner footer

Top Stories

Around Scottish sport

Elsewhere on the BBC