'I'm not going to shy away from expressing my feelings' - James McClean pays tribute to 'hero' Martin McGuinness
Republic of Ireland winger James McClean has penned a touching tribute to the late Martin McGuinness.
The West Bromwich Albion star praised the former Northern Ireland deputy first minister for helping him through difficult times in his career and described him as a 'hero' and a 'friend'.
McClean, a fellow Derry native, said: “[I am] writing this with a heavy heart. A bad week just getting worse, I’ve woken up to the passing of Martin just now. I am not going to shy away in expressing either how I feel.
“Not only was he a hero of mine, someone I looked up to, a man that has done so much for Irish people and Irish people’s freedom right to the very the end, he was also a good friend and someone I had the pleasure of having a good relationship with.
“He was a man I met so many times, had the privilege to share many a great conversation with, a man that always texted me before games wishing me luck, a man that through the well documented tough times off the field always let me know how brave I was standing by my beliefs, that I never was alone because I had his support and backing always.
“You will be sorely missed Martin, a great leader, a great hero and above all a great man. I’m thinking of all your loved ones. Beannacht agus buíochas a ghabháil leat mo chara.”
McClean tweeted a picture of himself with McGuinness during Euro 2016 after the United Kingdom voted to trigger Article 50 and leave the EU but a majority of people in Northern Ireland wished to remain.
He deleted his Twitter account shortly after posting the photo.
It has been a very difficult week for McClean who is also mourning the loss of former Derry City teammate Ryan McBride, who died suddenly on Sunday aged 27.