McGeady a talisman in more ways than one

Aiden McGeady's return to Scottish football after a 12-year absence brought to mind the veterans who have followed a similar path from English football back to the top flight in this country.

The 36-year-old will be just one of a number of players still operating in the Premiership next season who will be putting their faith in modern fitness methods and their hunger to keep going as they seek to prolong their careers

Fortysomething Allan McGregor is another who has decided to give it a go for another year. The Rangers goalkeeper was named player of the year for season 2020/21 while another goalkeeper Craig Gordon, aged 39, received the Football Writers award for the season just ended for his fine performances as Hearts finished third on their return to the top flight and reached the Scottish Cup final.

Top tier football, is of course, full of goalkeepers still capable of mixing it at the highest level but there are enough examples that age is no barrier to outfield players contributing at a satisfactory level. Of those still featuring for clubs in the Premiership, the names of Steven Davis, Charlie Mulgrew, Craig Bryson – among many more – stand out as players all still producing on a regular basis.

A study conducted by the National Library of Medicine confirms the general impression that elite football players are indeed playing for longer but that there is a significant drop off in those who have reached the age of 35. Of course, if the drop off is from exceptional to just merely good or very good there is no shame in that. As McGeady's performances at Sunderland over recent seasons have demonstrated, there is no reason to think that he will not provide a major boost to Hibernian's fortunes next season. But there may also be a hidden benefit for Lee Johnson, the Hibs manager. McGeady's is an erudite mind and one which perhaps explains early run-ins with irascible characters such as Artur Boruc and Gordon Strachan so it was interesting to hear Johnson explain what he felt McGeady would add to his dressing room.

“He will bring skill, experience and gravitas to our team,” he said, suggesting that McGeady is not just in town for one final pay check. “We will also look to utilise Aiden’s fantastic leadership qualities to help guide and get the best out of our young forward players.”

Childhood memories of Wimbledon

Your columnist was a Wimbledon orphan as a kid for a fortnight every summer back in more unreconstructed times – an era when women for the most part stayed at home and husbands went to work (shock horror). Inevitably the house fell apart for two weeks as my mother went on strike – well it was the 80s after all. It was an annual montage of shrieks and squeals, of heated arguments, of joy and despair – and that was just my dad trying to work out how to use the cooker.

It was also a time of high excitement, of fastening string between two lampposts and the near-decapitation of unsuspecting cyclists, as the kids in our street set up their own makeshift centre court in the middle of our housing estate. These were simpler times, but tennis was anything but. There were Machiavellian psychological battles between the game's biggest names, there was charisma in abundance and outrageous bits of skill. And, while the latter facet remains ever present, the other qualities will seem but a distant childhood memory when the tournament resumes at SW19 this week.

A new lease of life . . . in Hartlepool

In a week when the actual Gareth Bale completed his exit from Real Madrid to join Los Angeles FC it was interesting to note that the North Lanarkshire Gareth Bale was also on the move. Jake Hastie was meant to be Scottish football's next bright young thing when he joined Rangers from Motherwell in 2019. It didn't quite work out that way for the now xx-year-old who has bounced around the lower divisions in Scotland before finding himself on loan at Irish League club Linfield last season. Now, he has a chance to start again at Hartlepool, where he fill find himself reunited with Gordon Young, his old head of academy at Motherwell. Young and the Hartlepool manager Paul Hartley have brought in three Scots already this season – including Reghan Tumilty from Raith Rovers, Hastie and another former Motherwell youth team player in Euan Murray. It was a tried-and-trusted formula for Forest Green Rovers – who also had a trio of Scots in their League 2 title-winning line-up last season – let's hope it proves to be the perfect move for Hastie to get his career back on track.

Lasley predicts a change in football's landscape

Spoke to Keith Lasley recently about his plans for St Mirren (see interview inside Sport). The chief operating officer at the Paisley club has been making all the right noises since his arrival there in April. It is easy to forget that supporters care deeply about all facets of their clubs, not just transfers and league positions.

Lasley is in the midst of a Masters degree in sports directorship at Manchester Metropolitan University and believes that in the near future administrators in all areas of Scottish football will be drawn largely from ex-players who are similarly qualified – much as is the case in the rest of Europe.

“I think we are catching up with the rest of the continent on where we were 10 years ago in terms of having sporting directors and proper structures and probably sporting directors and COOs with a sporting background was a little bit more of the norm on the continent. Through courses [such as the one he is doing] I think that is becoming more of an option for players to see it as a pathway to get involved in the business side of football. I think players in the past just looked at it and essentially thought 'that's just for business guys' but now with the new structures in place you will see more players getting involved in an executive level.”

The gentlemen of the track

It speaks volumes about the standard of Scottish men's middle distance running that Josh Kerr, the Olympic bronze medallist, was quoted recently in these pages as saying he was intent on upgrading to a gold medal at this summer's world championships. It says even more about the strength of the Tartan giants on the track at 1500m that Kerr was third behind Jake Wightman and Neil Gourlay in a Scottish 1-2-3 at the UK Championships on Saturday.

Their position at the top of the 1500m game rekindles memories of the Steve Ovett/Seb Coe/Steve Cram era when British athletics dominated the division but there appears to be none of the rancour that characterised the rivalry of the three Englishman.

As Kerr said in the aftermath of Saturday's race: “It's really fun to keep competing against guys at the same level and keep pushing each other to higher heights. They are lovely men. I have nothing but respect for all of them.”