McClean keeping club stress in perspective
James McClean knows that any football problems he faces this summer pales in comparison with the battle facing his former colleague Mark Farren.
This morning, Farren begins his trip to Mexico for urgent medical treatment on a brain tumour with a view to prolonging his life. A remarkable fundraising effort driven by pals has made it possible for the 33-year-old and his wife Terri Louise to afford the expensive procedure and the care that will be required afterwards.
On Saturday, McClean was present at the Brandywell for a charity match involving a Derry City selection and a Northern Irish XI largely comprised of players from Farren's stint in Glenavon. The Irish international was itching to line up alongside a host of his ex-Derry teammates but his club situation made it impossible.
At the moment, the 26-year-old is a valuable commodity as he will not be dropping down to League One with Wigan next season. "It's no disrespect to them but I'm an ambitious person," he said.
With New York Red Bulls heading up MLS interest and suggestions at least one Premier League club is eyeing up a move, McClean is worth a seven figure sum to his current employers and therefore lining out in an exhibition game would be too much of a risk.
The fitness fanatic has been training with the current Derry City first team and doing some work with his personal trainer to keep the body ticking over, yet a match was a step too far.
"I've been working hard and I will take time off after the Ireland games and enjoy a break then," he says. There could be movement on his future this week, with the player happy to leave early negotiations in the hands of his representatives. "I know there's a lot of rumours going about but there's nothing on the table yet," he said. "There are a lot of interested parties. I'm at home enjoying my time and whatever happens, happens.
"I am 26 now so this is going to be one of the most crucial moves. Not just in terms of my career but my life as well, with my family," added McClean, whose partner is expecting their second child.
The presence of Martin O'Neill for the Farren fundraiser - he managed the Derry side after an invite from Michael O'Neill who looked after the visiting XI - offered a reminder that the summer double header is just around the corner. McClean is desperate to take on England on June 7 before the key qualifier with Scotland six days later. "It'd be a pleasure to be involved against England," he said. "And Scotland - there's no two ways about it, it's make or break. We owe them one as we didn't perform in Glasgow and hopefully we can put that right and get three points.
"They know us well and we know them well, and it showed in the game in Glasgow - it was a tight affair and it wasn't good on the eye. But the Aviva is a pretty big pitch and if we can get the crowd behind us and get on the front foot early on, we'll have a right go."
McClean has enjoyed his international outings in the past year as a release from Wigan. He did scoop Player of the Year honours but it was a hollow achievement.
"It's not nice to have a relegation on your CV," he said. "As a team, it was a car crash of a season. We ended up with three managers and in pre-season maybe there was a feeling about the place that we were going to go up this season and it was a given.
"Personally, the season was ok, I managed to pick up a few individual awards and top scorer with just six goals but it would have been nicer to pick them up under better circumstances."
All these complaints are put in perspective by the plight of Farren and McClean was heartened by how the football communities from both sides of the border rallied together for Derry's all-time record goalscorer.
"Just look at everyone who is here. Martin and Michael O'Neill and a lot of ex-players. I was a Derry fan growing up and I watched their European runs when they went close to the title under Stephen Kenny," said McClean.
"To come in as a youngster and be part of that team was tremendous. I was kind of anxious and afraid but boys like Mark, even with the simple things like talking to me and having a conversation, put me at ease. He's a club legend."
Ruaidhri Higgins, Kevin McHugh and Ciaran Martyn have been at the forefront of organising activities for Farren and they've called on their network of friends to back the cause.
"It just shows you the character of the lads," continued McClean. "The league gets a lot of negativity - and a lot of it rightly so with facilities and that - but when it comes down to things like this, it's a testament to the players. Not just the players in this league but the ones in this country and abroad."