Saturday 25 January 2020

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill sees a more settled James McClean

Martin O'Neill has backed James McClean to revel in the responsibility of captaining the Republic of Ireland in their friendly clash with Mexico.

The 28-year-old West Brom midfielder will wear the armband at the Met Life Stadium in New Jersey during the early hours of Friday morning, having proved himself a key member of O'Neill's side in recent months.

McClean has repeatedly found himself at the centre of controversy during his club career in England, where his decision not to wear a commemorative poppy shirt has been broadly criticised despite an eloquent explanation of his stance.

However, his international manager, who handed the player his Premier League debut during their time together at Sunderland, has seen him grow in the years since.

Speaking ahead of training at the stadium, O'Neill said with a smile: "I think in his personal life, that has settled down - and it's at least three months since he's had another tattoo, so it's really, really good.

"He's in fine form. He wanted to come on the trip and he wanted to get a cap. Every opportunity he wants to take."

McClean has risen to the fore for Ireland during the ongoing World Cup qualifying campaign, during which his goals in Moldova and Austria have proved decisive.

O'Neill has seen the player grow in stature as a result and is hoping for more of the same as he prepares for the Austrians' December visit to the Aviva Stadium on June 11.

He said: "He knows how important those things have been. The great thing about James is he feels important in the team, particularly in this World Cup run that we've had."

PA Media

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