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Aiden McGeady is relieved to finally get the chance to start showing Hibernian fans he has not returned to Scotland for “a pension top-up” after overcoming one of the worst periods of his career.

Just weeks after signing for the Easter Road side following his exit from Sunderland, the 36-year-old former Republic of Ireland winger suffered a recurrence of a knee injury in July and spent five months out.

McGeady admits he pondered retirement during his latest demoralising stint on the sidelines, but having returned to action at the end of December, he is delighted to have the opportunity to prove to any doubters that he still has the hunger to play regularly.

“I’ve not played for so long that I feel I owe the club and the fans something,” said the veteran, who impressed in his first cinch Premiership start for Hibs as they defeated Motherwell 3-2 on Sunday.

“I feel people might think I’ve just up come here for the last couple of years of my career.

“That’s not the case at all. I still love playing football and I still feel I have something to offer.

“The injury really set me back a lot, because it was a recurrence of the same one from last season.

“There’s nothing worse than being injured. The last four or five months have been some of the worst of my career.

“I actually contemplated just packing it in completely. I thought, ‘I’m never going to get over this’.

“But it’s all worth it when you have days like Sunday, when you are out there enjoying playing football again and showing you can make a difference.”

Asked what caused him to banish the niggling thoughts of retirement, McGeady said: “It was just about getting over the pain in my knee. We took it really cautiously this time.

“At Sunderland, I rushed back and had two or three setbacks so I was more cautious this time. There must have been people thinking, ‘he’s up here for a jolly, or to top up his pension’, whatever they want to say.

“I absolutely wasn’t. I still love playing football and I want to do well for this club.”

McGeady is the latest high-profile Hibs attacker to return from a lengthy injury lay-off after Kyle Magennis and Kevin Nisbet also made their comebacks towards the end of 2022. All three started together for the first time on Sunday as Hibs picked up a much-needed win following a run of nine defeats in 11 games for Lee Johnson’s side.

“I don’t want to speak about what’s gone on before, but if you put myself, Nisbet and Magennis, the three of us have pretty much been out for a year (each),” said McGeady. “Then you’ve got Martin Boyle as well (who is out for the rest of this season).

“It doesn’t help the manager when you have three or more focal points of the team out, it will hold you back a bit.

“I can only imagine he feels better having us three fit and I’m just glad to get back on the pitch again.

“I think if he gets his best players and formation, with the game intelligence and game management, I don’t think we will be too far away.”