Aiden’s smiles better at PNE

Aiden McGeady in action against Arsenal
Aiden McGeady in action against Arsenal
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Preston manager Simon Grayson says Aiden McGeady is back playing football with a smile on his face.

The winger, on loan from Everton for the season, caught the eye in PNE’s FA Cup tie with Arsenal.

His run and pirouette turn which led to Callum Robinson opening the scoring was a superb piece of skill.

“I thought Geads played a key role in the Arsenal game,” said Grayson.

“He has the quickest feet I have seen from a player, either playing with or managing.

“Geads has got quality and it is great to have him here.

“We have just given him the chance to enjoy himself and his performance against Arsenal showed how he is enjoying it.

“Geads is one of the most talented players around but unfortunately he has not shown that on a consistent basis over the years for some reason.

“When we signed him in the summer, it was to give us that X-factor which we didn’t have at the time.

“He is working hard here and it’s great to have him.

“What I always try and do with players who come here is get them playing with a smile on their face.

“Geads is doing that and we will always encourage him to be himself.

“There will be times when he gives the ball away or makes a mistake – which player doesn’t?

“He can affect a game in a big way, we have a few lads like that who express themselves.”

McGeady has played in 14 games for North End since moving to Deepdale at the end of August.

It has been stop-start with a couple of injury interruptions but recent displays have shown what he is about. On New Year’s Eve against Sheffield Wednesday, he had a spell in the second half when he tormented the Owls defence after moving in field to the No.10 role.

Against Arsenal, he played on the left wing in a four-man midfield and shone.

Team-mate Ben Pearson said: “Aiden is some player when he is on his game.

“He really should be playing in the Premier League.

“When he gets the ball, he gives you some breathing space because of the way he can keep possession.

“Against Arsenal we had him on one side, Paul Gallagher on the other, while Callum went out there too.”

McGeady, 30, is in line to face league leaders Brighton at Deepdale on Saturday.

Having exited the FA Cup after their 90 minutes in the national spotlight, the full focus is on the Championship.

Said McGeady: “We’re a team full of potential.

“We are not the finished article. But a few of the draws we’ve had in the last couple of months, if you turn them into wins we’re right in the mix of the play-offs.”

North End’s options on the wings are certainly plentiful.

McGeady has been used on both sides of the pitch, with January signings Daryl Horgan and Tom Barkhuizen now in the equation.

Gallagher and Robinson can operate out wide, while there is Ben Pringle too.

Horgan made his debut in the latter stages of the Arsenal clash – a game Barkhuizen was cup-tied for having appeared for Morecambe.

Barkhuizen is free to resume this weekend having been an unused substitute in the league win at Burton.