Tuesday 15 October 2019

Dublin factor removes fears over McClean role in North game

James McClean: PFAI support. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
James McClean: PFAI support. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Man of the moment James McClean is set to feature in next Thursday's friendly with Northern Ireland.

But Martin O'Neill has admitted that he might have been presented with a dilemma if the friendly match was scheduled for Belfast.

McClean has made headlines again over the past week with his stance on the poppy leading to angry scenes after Stoke's draw with Middlesbrough.

The FA subsequently investigated an Instagram post by McClean hitting back at his critics. That probe infuriated the player who says the authorities do not take the abuse that he receives seriously because he is an Irish Catholic.

He received support yesterday from the PFA Ireland and the Show Racism the Red Card organisation who released a statement saying that: "Racism on the basis of colour, nationality, religion or ethnicity is not acceptable.

"This statement is a call to both the FA and Scottish FA to have a more robust approach to abuse faced by James McClean and Neil Lennon."

Ireland manager O'Neill was reluctant to get drawn into the poppy debate yesterday. He declined to answer a question about his own view on wearing one.

But he acknowledged that the fuss around McClean provided some food for thought given the symbolism of the Aviva Stadium encounter.

It would be no surprise if McClean was the target for taunts from the travelling support that is expected.

And he is suspended for the UEFA Nations League tie in Denmark that follows on.

O'Neill indicated it would be a worrying state of affairs if he had to think about fielding McClean in a home match.

"I would really need to sit down and have a conversation with him.

"I'm looking at this and am prepared to change my mind on it, but if this is an issue that is preventing him from playing in front of his home crowd, then I think we've all got to look at things then if that's the case.

"I wouldn't have envisaged that as being a problem. James is not travelling. If this game had been up in the North, I think then I would be having a look at it."

O'Neill did later say that he knows what it's like to be on the receiving end of similar grief with a reference to his time as Celtic manager.

He also said he struggled to initially win over the crowd at Windsor Park before quickly suggesting that "maybe it's because I was playing crap".

Irish Independent

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