Thursday 8 December 2016

Stephen Hunt: Duty to family trumps James McClean's perceived duty to Derry

James McClean could find himself drummed out of English football

Published 26/07/2015 | 17:00

'McClean is his own man and when he takes a stance like he did with the poppy then it’s hard not to admire him, but there is only so far you can go.'
'McClean is his own man and when he takes a stance like he did with the poppy then it’s hard not to admire him, but there is only so far you can go.'

In my defence, I didn't know I was about to be heard by an entire stadium when I grabbed a microphone and decide to have a pop at a few people, or maybe the English people, depending on how you look at it.

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I was a young player at Crystal Palace, settling in to a new country, which in my case meant feeling very strange in a new country. Every Saturday we had to go to college in an administrative building at Selhurst Park. There was a microphone in one of the offices. I grabbed it and told my team-mates as a joke to "Fuck off you English wankers." When I started doing radio work later in my career they told me 'You're never alone with a microphone,' but I knew that already after what happened this day. The microphone wasn't just broadcasting to the offices we were in, it was the tannoy for Selhurst Park, so I hadn't simply addressed the lads I was in college with, I had told 15,000 people that they were English wankers who should fuck off.

I was 19 or 20 at the time and I made sure I never did anything as stupid again. James McClean feels he is representing his community when he behaves as he did in South Carolina last weekend but he shouldn't be surprised if people who feel as strongly about their community take it badly.

McClean is his own man and when he takes a stance like he did with the poppy then it's hard not to admire him, but there is only so far you can go. He may feel he has a duty to the people of Derry, but I believe you also have a duty to your family first and foremost and the money he will earn in the Premier League is better than the money he will earn in any other league, in any other country. If he isn't careful, he'll find that English clubs don't want anything to do with him.

He might encounter some patriotic managers who don't want to work with him, but more likely he will have to deal with patriotic supporters who wonder why they should show respect to somebody who disrespects something they believe in.

It might come as a surprise to McClean but there are English patriots as well as Irish patriots and while some of them will have understood his position over the poppy - I certainly did - they won't be as tolerant when he acts as disrespectfully as he did in the US.

I have been in Ireland squads with players who were extremely proud of their Irishness. They would belt out the rebel songs but they all understood one thing. You were lucky to be earning a living in the Premier League and if your team-mates are turning to face the flag, you face it with them. Nobody is asking you to sing God Save the Queen, you just face it and move on.

By disrespecting the flag and the anthem, McClean is in danger of being viewed not as a principled man who stands up for what he believes in but as a bigot. I don't believe that's the case but if it becomes something that is suspected in English football then clubs will hesitate if they are considering signing him.

He's not a world-class talent, which would mean clubs wouldn't care about anything he does off the pitch. He's a player who will always be a marginal call for a Premier League club.

He has drawn out some bigots on the other side and now he will have to deal with them as he attempts to make a mark at a new club. I can understand it over the poppy but this is unnecessary.

It won't just be bigots he has angered. I know plenty of decent English people who love England as much as I, or James McClean, love Ireland. They would never dream of showing that disrespect to the Irish anthem.

I was young and foolish once and I know how hard it can be when you come to England and feel you are fighting not only for yourself but for your whole country. McClean is youngish and foolish and he needs to learn a bit of diplomacy. Are we saying that as he is from Derry, he can do what he wants?

If so, that's fine, but don't be surprised if people who take a different point of view react strongly as well. I think he should keep his head down and get on with his career. He's got another chance at a Premier League club and he doesn't want to blow it. Right now, he can get a good rate on sterling to euro, that should at least make him happy to be working in England. He certainly wouldn't want it the other way round.

Sunday Indo Sport

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