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McClean will not meekly serve his time in England

Matic's refusal to wear poppy will help defiant Derryman

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James McClean responded fiercely to news that the English FA were investigating him despite being barracked by fans after last Saturday’s game against Middlesbrough

James McClean responded fiercely to news that the English FA were investigating him despite being barracked by fans after last Saturday’s game against Middlesbrough

James McClean responded fiercely to news that the English FA were investigating him despite being barracked by fans after last Saturday’s game against Middlesbrough

He hasn't gone away, you know. And James McClean has shown that he is prepared to risk a lot, possibly even his contract with Stoke City, when it comes to the wearing of a poppy on his chest.

Any suggestion that the fuss over McClean's refusal to wear a poppy last weekend, while playing for Stoke away to Middlesbrough, was about to die away has been ripped apart since Saturday.

We still have a week of poppy fever/fascism to go, emotions even higher than usual this year as it's the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I.

For some in the UK, a poppy can never be big enough, or worn early enough, to satisfy poppy fascism, the nonsense of the whole saga evident this week as photos emerged online of men proudly wearing a poppy while also boasting a swastika tattoo. As Billy Bragg said 25 years ago, "they salute the foes their fathers fought by waving their right arm in the air".

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And McClean is not backing down. The Derry native was provoked into a reaction by news that the English Football Association planned to investigate comments he made on social media after he was abused by supporters who were angered by his decision not to wear a poppy at Stoke's game at home to Middlesbrough last week.

The FA have since handed McClean a warning, but will not pursue the matter any further. A statement read: "Stoke City's James McClean has been warned by The FA for his use of an offensive word on social media.

"We are satisfied that the rest of the player's postings do not breach FA Rules and, therefore, no further disciplinary action will be taken."

A self-confessed Republican and Fenian, McClean knows his history and even quoted Bobby Sands over the weekend. He would also appreciate the meaning of the phrase "Nor meekly serve my time" and McClean has put it up to the English FA to get serious about the abuse he has received.

"The FA are investigating me after Saturday's game, for what exactly?" he said on Instagram.

"Yet week in week out for the past seven years I get constant sectarian abuse, death threats, objects being thrown, chanting which is heard loud and clear every week which my family, wife and kids have to listen to.

"They turn a blind eye and not a single word or condemnation of any sort. If it was a person's skin colour or if it was anti-Muslim, someone's gender, there would be an uproar and it would be taken in a completely different way and dealt with in a different manner.

"But like in Neil Lennon's case in Scotland, because we are Irish catholics, they turn a blind eye and nothing is ever said and done."

It seems the English FA have listened and have ultimately backed down.

Nemanja Matic has no real connection with Ireland and his understanding of our history probably goes no further than what he can glean from Wikipedia. But the Serb has actually done McClean (and other poppy conscientious objectors) a favour by opting not to wear a poppy on his shirt while on duty for Manchester United last weekend.

He said: "I recognise fully why people wear poppies, I totally respect everyone's right to do so. However, for me it is only a reminder of an attack that I felt personally as a young, frightened 12-year-old boy living in Vrelo, as my country was devastated by the bombing of Serbia in 1999. Whilst I have done so previously, on reflection I now don't feel it is right for me to wear the poppy on my shirt."

Matic is making the same point as the McClean. The Derry native insists that, to him, the poppy does not just honour those who died during World War I and II, but is linked to the entire British military machine, a machine which slaughtered 14 innocent citizens of Derry in 1972.

Matic does not see the poppy as honouring the dead of 1914-18 but as something linked to the RAF jets which bombed his homeland in the Kosovo war. McClean and Matic stand firm and need other footballers to follow suit.


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