Tuesday 27 September 2016

McClean hoping for three and easy to lift Wigan woe

Published 03/06/2015 | 02:30

James McClean's Wigan Athletic side will play out next season in League One
James McClean's Wigan Athletic side will play out next season in League One

A constant source of annoyance for observers of the international circuit is the persistence of players remaining glued to their mobile phones on Irish duty.

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Whether in the dugout - surely one of Roy Keane's nebulous duties should be to ban this practice - or this week, trundling towards their first arctic work-out of a crucial fortnight on Monday, a host of players have been observed on their mobiles.

Have they not enough down-time to tweet, talk and tap?

It may seem like a trite observation from a grump in the bleachers and, if truth be told, perhaps it is a reflection on the uncertain club careers of so many within Martin O'Neill's raggle-taggle collection of mostly Championship players.

Only nine of his squad will play top-flight football next term; significantly, they all started against Poland - albeit his mistaken choice of Robbie Brady has since been relegated - hinting at O'Neill's leaning towards experience.

Indeed, some of them have dipped even lower, amongst them James McClean, whose Wigan Athletic side completed their undignified lurch from an FA Cup final appearance to the third tier of English football within an impressive three years.

Although he has a year left on his contract, he has already publicly declared his intent to return to a level within which he, and some of his supporters, suggest he is best suited, ie the Premier League.

Major League Soccer, then, despite the semi-retirements of some of the English league's most exalted emigrants, would not appear to be on his radar, though it is only from this jurisdiction that initial enquiries have emanated.

Oh, and Leeds.

The 26-year-old winger should be arriving at his peak of his profession and last month was freely admitting that he has several options to consider, even if it would force suitors to pay around €2.5m to spring him before his contract ends.

Confirming that there was, as yet, no development in terms of a move, his response when asked when he was due to return to his current employers less than subtly hinted that he is not exactly counting the days.

"I'm not sure yet," he tells us. "I'll just get these games out of the way and see and take whatever comes from there.

"I've been with Derry and I've been working with a personal trainer. I haven't had a break yet since the season finished."

Retaining physical fitness is one thing, diverting himself from the mental uncertainty of where he will ply his trade next term is quite another; those who know him, however, can attest to his psychological strength.

"I can keep it a secret no bother," he says. "What happens on that front happens. We've three games that I want to win so the sole focus of my attention is helping that happen.

"There's no hangover for me, not at all. What's happened, happened. The longer you focus on that the more it adds to your problems.

"Look, it's done, I'm fully focused on that and I'm really looking forward to the game.

"As to where I might be going, that's something I don't want to answer at the minute. What will be, will be. I've got games coming up and that's my sole intention, not what happens after that."

Of course, his twin ambitions may not entirely be mutually exclusive; aside from the quirky decision to place Northern Ireland's friendly behind closed doors - a grievous blow for ticket touts, that - positive performances against England and Scotland could alert wishful wooers.

"We've three big games, although I know the Northern Ireland one is only a practice game but, make no mistake about it, it's three local games, three derbies in terms of internationals and we want to win the three of them."

Irish Independent

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