PHIL PARKINSON has held a face-to-face discussion with Aiden McGeady, and intends to “assess” the midfielder’s situation once he has proved he is back to full fitness.

Having spent the second half of last season on loan at Charlton Athletic after a falling out with his manager, McGeady was frozen out of the first-team picture at Sunderland after he returned to training towards the end of the summer.

Parkinson effectively drew a line under the Irishman’s Black Cats career when he ruled him out of first-team contention and instructed him to train with the club’s Under-23 squad.

A calf injury meant McGeady was unavailable anyway, but after returning to training in the last couple of weeks, the 34-year-old made a surprise appearance in Monday’s Under-23s game with Crystal Palace.

That led to speculation over a possible return to Sunderland’s first-team squad, but while Parkinson did not completely close the door on the idea when he spoke at his press conference yesterday, he was at pains to stress that McGeady’s second-string outing was part of an agreed training programme that is effectively like a mini pre-season.

That could pave the way for McGeady to return to the fold at some stage in the future, or alternatively, it could increase the prospects of the forward finding alternative employment when the transfer window reopens at the start of January.

“Aiden’s had a couple of injury problems since he came back,” said Parkinson. “He had an injection in his knee, and has been training for probably the last ten days. He’s on a pre-season programme, and that’s what he needs to do. He wants to do that, wants to get himself up to speed. Part of that is that he needs some game time, so he played for the Under-23s on Monday.

“I had a good chat with Aiden about a week ago, and we said the most important thing is that we need to get Aiden up to speed for himself. He’s a professional footballer, and he’s had a few setbacks since he came back, but he hasn’t played a game since July, when he was at Charlton. That’s a long time.

“We just said, ‘Let’s get a programme in place for you, following a similar programme that the lads had in pre-season’. We’ll assess the situation (after that), but the most important thing is to get him back up to speed.”

At this stage, the prospects of McGeady returning to Sunderland’s first-team fold remain slight, not least because his reintroduction into the squad would affect the club’s current salary-cap calculations.

Nevertheless, some fans are clamouring for his return as it could help address a lack of creativity that has held Sunderland back on a number of occasions this season.

Last weekend’s draw at Doncaster was a prime example of the Black Cats failing to make their superiority count, but while Parkinson accepts a return of one point from the last two league games was a major disappointment, he rejects the suggestion that wholesale changes are required.

“In the last couple of games, we’ve dipped in terms of a points return,” he said. “We lost to MK Dons and only drew to Doncaster, but we’re still unbeaten on our travels, which is good.

“For the way we’ve played and dominated games, we should have more points and we’ve got to look at that. We’ve got to improve on that part of our game, where we pin teams in. We’ve got to sense when a team is hanging on, and kill them off. If you look at the Doncaster game, that’s what we needed to do. We had them where we wanted them, and we’ve got to be more ruthless.”