Monday 18 November 2019

'Good harmony is all that matters to us' - McClean

McClean lays down his law: 'You'd have to put a gun to my head for me not to come and play for Ireland'

Dedicated: James McClean sharing his opinions with the media after training yesterday. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Dedicated: James McClean sharing his opinions with the media after training yesterday. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

James McClean enters the room with a purposeful stride.

His right arm may be in a cast but he still comes out swinging, directing a machine-gun message to ensure that nobody can be left in any doubt as to the purpose of this squad.

Ireland may have arrived this week without their captain but the Derryman offers us a more than passing impression.

"Any way I can hand-pick the journalists?" he grins. It is not always a profession for which those in his profession have located common ground.

His comments on temporarily exiled team-mates Harry Arter and Declan Rice resound with authenticity; his defence of the manager reverberates with authority.

His own personal creed may define him - "You'd have to put a gun to my head for me not to come and play for Ireland" - but he appreciates that it may not necessarily define others.

"Everyone is different," he says in almost the same breath. "I don't mind the tough approach. I like to think I'm capable of giving it back myself. I don't mind a rollicking. I'll take that. It will take more than a rollicking to stop me from turning up and playing for Ireland.


"I think it is a healthy thing to have these things. It means people care. It's when people don't care that you have to worry. From my point of view, there is no issue.

"Roy Keane is what you see. He has that experience and has won so much. From my point of view, when he speaks, I listen. I respect him.

"What happened is not ideal, it should have stayed in-house. But again, that's between those involved. As long as there is a good harmony in the squad - which there is - that's all that matters."

Initially reluctant to address the issues that afflicted Arter last month, and the distinct one which continues to affect Rice, McClean is allowed, and does so quite eloquently, to discuss the foibles of modern youth.

"They'd rather stay at Chelsea or City and it's more for their social media rather than their actual playing careers. Flash cars, nice watches - all for social media.

"Someone would rather say I'm a footballer for Man City, even if you're not playing for Man City; you're just a youth team player, rather than being a first-team player for someone like Carlisle. Everyone is pampered nowadays. Look at the young players coming through these days, there is no fear factor whatsoever.

"Young lads now, you can't say boo to them, you can't, you know, play practical jokes. There's that many anti-this and anti-that, you know everybody has got a problem with everything, know what I mean?

"You just can't do nothing nowadays without someone taking offence to it. The generation now are different 100pc.

"I think where I grew up toughened me up. But, again, my route - I'm not saying it was the right route, but you weren't pampered.

"You were taking ice baths in a black bin, walking into training in the rain and you were walking back. We didn't have them luxuries. Now everyone is there hand on foot to do everything for them.

"It's how you're brought up, that's the way you've brought up, that's who you are, I don't think you should change for anybody.

"If you are pampered and you do have that soft nature growing up, that's who you are. You shouldn't have to put on this tough act for anyone else."

But we must bring him back to Arter, against whom much of the above has been used as loose weaponry to attack his character in the last month. Jon Walters, for one, seemed to side with McClean's view. You're not going to let this go are you?

"Again, I don't mind Harry as a person but I'll tell Harry myself, I thought he was wrong not to show up. You know, I've no problem in saying that.

"But I'm not going to go against him, that's his issue. He's here now, he's a very good player, we need all the players, he's here now, for me, that's water under the bridge. I felt he should have showed up last time. He's here now, let's get on with it."

He also continues to rail against Rice's enduring ambiguity but, once more, seeks to differentiate the person from the opinion.

"Nothing changes for me. Like I said, I don't agree with the situation. But I don't have a problem with Declan as a person. I told Declan that myself.

"If he comes in, he's a team-mate, he is here representing Ireland. I'll welcome him 100 per cent when he does come in, if he does come in."

Throughout all the uncertainty assailing his squad has been the frailties exposed in the management but, again, the restored McClean responds robustly.

Speculation is shared with him, before being sliced, diced and returned with absolute conviction.

"Speculation from who? You guys? Maybe you should write the truth in terms of his record, it's pretty good to be honest.

"Sometimes when we're not doing well you thrive on it a bit more. Maybe you should give the man the credit he deserves. He's the right man for the job, 100 per cent."

His wife may have - again - changed his twitter password but nobody can change his mind. Age and experience has not diluted his fiery nature, merely distilled it.

Does he feel older but wiser?

"Some would say I am, some would say not. I like to think I am."

Irish Independent

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