Kevin Kilbane says Aiden McGeady can kick-start his Everton career by showcasing his “X factor ability” for the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2016.
Current BBC pundit Kilbane describes McGeady, who spent the last four months of the 2015/16 campaign on loan at Sheffield Wednesday, as one of the most naturally gifted players he shared a field with during his playing days.
And, while Kilbane concedes the 30-year-old has not so far been able to maintain his best form on a consistent basis during his time at Goodison, he believes a strong tournament in France can stand his former international teammate in good stead for next term when a new manager will be at the Everton helm.
“I know Martin O’Neill is a big fan of Aiden,” he said. “I played a number of games with him at international level and his ability is undoubted. He’s one of the most naturally gifted players I played alongside and he can be frightening at times - but teams quite often man mark him or double up on him and I think he’s struggled when that has been the case.
“He’s his own biggest critic, he watches all his games back and he gets down if he’s not played well - as I think pretty much every player does. But he is certainly someone who has that ‘X factor’ and I hope he has a really good tournament.
“There has been some uncertainty around him at club level. He obviously got games out on loan last season which helped but, by his own admission, he hasn’t been able to maintain consistency with Everton. He knows what a great club he’s playing for and he enjoys being there, but he’s not always been able to show his best form.
“There is a big chance for Aiden to impress the fans and staff at Everton during this tournament. I hope he pulls it off and goes on to show what he’s capable of in an Everton shirt.”
With Martin O’Neill opting for a narrow diamond formation in qualifying, Kilbane believes McGeady may need to make an impression off the bench as the Boys in Green look to progress from a difficult group, which also includes Sweden, Belgium and Italy.
He added: “Aiden could be key if we’re chasing a game and we’re looking to change the system. He is an ideal winger to bring on because he has that little bit of unpredictability and he’s someone who can unlock a defence.
“I’m hoping he can show it whether that be from the start or off the bench, because his ability can’t be questioned.”
>>> Click here to read Kilbane’s thoughts on James McCarthy, the first instalment of our exclusive four-part series on our Irish contingent.