JAMES MCCLEAN'S meteoric rise at Sunderland has shocked the football world -- but not his colleague and fellow countryman David Meyler.
Since his impressive debut in the Black Cats' 2-1 victory over Blackburn last December, McClean (pictured) has never looked back, netting five goals and gaining a first international cap for Ireland.
With repeated calls for him to be included in Giovanni Trapattoni's Euro 2012 squad and reported interest in the Derry native, his future looks bright.
Team-mate Meyler said he saw McClean's potential right from the beginning after his £350,000 move from Derry City last summer.
"James has done terrifically well and was unfortunate not to play earlier in the season," Meyler said. "The manager gave him his chance (in December) and he hasn't looked back since.
"Before he played in the first team, James had done so well with the reserves. I remember going to watch him a few times when he was playing, and I played alongside him a few times when I was coming back from injury.
"To be honest I'm not surprised one bit how he's done."
Meyler expects even more gems to be unearthed from the Sunderland academy in the coming years.
"Lots of players have come through in the past and there are more set to come through in the future," he added.
"The future is bright -- we have a lot of young talent and great players (at reserve level)."