LEE JOHNSON helped rescue Aiden McGeady from the Sunderland scrap-heap - now the former Celtic winger is setting his sights on helping restore Hibernian to their former glories.

McGeady penned a 12-month deal with the Easter Road club on Friday night to return to Scottish football for the first time in 12 years.

Now 36, the 93-times capped Republic of Ireland internationalist will add experience and know-how to Hibs’ youthful squad.

And the ex-Spartak Moscow and Everton player admits he also has an affinity and understanding with Hibs’ new boss, Johnson, following their time together at Sunderland.

McGeady was out in the cold and forced to train with the youth squad when Johnson took over from Phil Parkinson in December 2020 and instantly restored the mercurial attacker to the Black Cats line-up.

McGeady said: “I’ve got a lot to thank the manager for. When he took over at Sunderland I was kind of an exile, because the previous manager had me training with the [under-]23s.

“We didn’t have a falling out, but I was kind of in no-man’s land, really.

“I hadn’t played for six months and the first thing he [Johnson] did when he got the job was phone me that night and say, ‘do you want to start tomorrow?’.

“We were playing Wigan and I said ‘yes’ and then I played every single game.

“So, I’ve got a lot of trust and loyalty towards the manager because of that but, also, I would say that season he probably did get the best out of me.

“I played some really good football under him and I enjoyed my football, which is the main thing for me.

“With regards to my role in the team, I think it goes without saying the he probably knows what he’s going to get from me and when I’m going to play and when he wants me to play.”

McGeady has also revealed he encouraged Johnson to take the Hibs manager’s job, and has told him he could become a club legend if he gets things right.

He added: “I kept in contact with him when he left Sunderland. We’ve had just small chats here and there and when Shaun [Maloney] got the sack and there was a vacant position here I was saying to him he should go for it because it’s a great club, a big club.

“[I said], ‘if you do as well as you think you can, you’ll go down as a legend’.

“So, we had conversations like that and when he got the job I was thinking, without getting ahead of myself, that there could be a possibility of me coming.

“I always had it in the back of my mind I was going to come back to Scotland at some point, especially this year, after Sunderland. And I don’t think there could be a better fit, to be honest.”

McGeady won four Scottish Premier League titles, two Scottish Cups and a League Cup with Celtic and has a wealth of experience after playing in the English Premier League, Champions League and European Championships with Ireland.

He is fully aware Hibs under-performed last season in finishing in the bottom six, although they still reached the Premier Sports Cup final and the Scottish Cup semi-final.

But he has set his targets high as he eyes a challenge to the Old Firm this term.

He went on: “Last season was a difficult season for the club - two managers and now our own manager.

“But I think the aim for this season needs to be to finish as high as possible in the league and hopefully win a cup. That’s my ambition, to win trophies and win things.

“Split the Old Firm? It’s easier said than done, of course. That’s a really hard thing to do. We need to improve on last season, of course, and then take it from there.

“I just think with the size of the club, and when I was coming through Hibs were probably the third best team outside Celtic and Rangers, so it’s probably trying to get Hibs back to that position.

“I think that would be the manager’s aim as well.”