’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
That line comes from a poem written by Alfred Lord Tennyson way back in 1849 and perhaps sums up my view of Aiden McGeady’s move to Sunderland from Everton.
There was a great deal of disappointment among the Preston faithful that there would no future sightings of McGeady in a white shirt.
Last season’s player of the year had chosen the Black Cats as his next port of call, a quick reunion with Simon Grayson at the Stadium of Light after the pair worked so well together at Deepdale.
When those feelings of disappointment subside though, think of Tennyson’s words.
At least we got the chance to see McGeady do his stuff for North End rather than not at all.
In the second half of the season especially, he came up with some of the most skilful play seen from a PNE player for many a year.
For me, McGeady was an upgrade on what Brian Mooney used to thrill us with on the Deepdale plastic in the late 1980s.
Different era, different division, but similar kinds of player.
McGeady was a bit of a slow burner last season, to start with there being a few glimpses of what he could in among a couple of absences through injury.
He really began to spark in late December, turning Sheffield Wednesday players inside out on New Year’s Eve.
There was the Maradona turn to take him past Aaron Ramsey in the FA Cup tie with Arsenal, which led to Callum Robinson’s opening goal that night.
Through February, March and April, spectacular goals flew from his boots.
A goal which came from closer in, will be one best remembered by North End supporters.
With 93 minutes on the clock at Ewood Park, he picked his spot with a calm finish from Tom Clarke’s pass to earn a 2-2 draw with Blackburn Rovers.
How significant a goal that was to prove a few weeks later in the last knockings.
Little wonder he walked off with the player of the year award, one of the few loan players to have done so in PNE’s history – Martin Hodge the only other who springs to mind in the early 1980s.
Let us pause and take in the word ‘loan’ at this point.
McGeady was never North End’s player, he belonged to Everton throughout his nine months here.
It was the Toffees paying three-quarters of his wage, with the Lilywhites picking-up the remainder of the tab.
That still put him high up, if not at the very top, in the salary stakes at Preston.
The only way they would have been able to get him back to Deepdale this season, was another loan.
Early in the summer, it became apparent Everton wanted McGeady away on a permanent basis.
The fee Sunderland are reported to have paid for McGeady – figures range between £250,000 and £500,000 – would not have proved beyond PNE.
The wages would have though, that is the reality of the situation.
Transfer fees can be paid in a couple of instalments, wages on the other hand are a commitment every month over the course of a contract, the big drain on the finances.
Although Sunderland won’t be paying McGeady the wage he got combined from Everton and PNE last term, it is considerably more than what North End could have afforded.
While that will frustrate some folk, it is the reality.
McGeady’s contract at Everton was a very decent one in the Premier League, certainly not at the lower end of the scale.
Remember, he joined them after playing in Russia with Spartak Moscow and won’t have come cheap.
Once Simon Grayson left Preston for Sunderland late last month, it was going to be a clear run for them when it came to McGeady.
Grayson got the best out of him last season, reignited his career.
When he joined PNE on loan on transfer deadline day last August, McGeady’s only others options were clubs in Poland and Denmark.
In Grayson, McGeady found a manager willing to let him express himself, he gave him the freedom to play.
Interviewed after the move to Sunderland went through on Thursday night, the player acknowledged that the chance of working with Grayson again was a big attraction.
All eyes will be trained on Wearside to see if McGeady can make the same impact.
I’m glad to have had the opportunity to have watched him first-hand – one season at Preston was better than none.
Now it is time for others to fill that creative attacking role at North End.
There is no need for any player to have to be the ‘new McGeady’ and to try and be just like him.
Instead, be themselves, excite and entertain us in their own way.
Josh Harrop, Daryl Horgan, Tom Barkhuizen and Callum Robinson all have creativity in their boots in that final third.
All can play roles off the main striker in the manner McGeady did, either wide or in the No.10 position.