Monday 16 July 2018

Hero McClean is targeted by trolls following bookies' tweet

McClean rushes to his wife Erin to celebrate at the final whistle in Cardiff on Monday evening. Picture: Sportsfile
McClean rushes to his wife Erin to celebrate at the final whistle in Cardiff on Monday evening. Picture: Sportsfile

Evan Bartlett and Ian Begley

Furious customers have threatened to close their accounts with an online bookmaker after it tweeted praise of Republic of Ireland midfielder James McClean.

The 28-year-old scored the winner in Ireland's crucial World Cup qualifying victory over Wales on Monday, but is a controversial figure with some for his refusal to wear a poppy for the UK's Remembrance Day.

After Bet365 tweeted a photo of McClean with the caption "not all heroes wear capes" it was inundated with angry replies.

"365 talking s**t, they support a non poppy wearing thug. Be ashamed I will also close my account," wrote one.

McClean, who was born in Derry and who plays for West Bromwich Albion, explained his refusal to wear a poppy, worn by Premier League clubs in the build up to Remembrance Day on November 11, in a West Brom match day programme two years ago.

"If the poppy was simply about World War One and Two victims alone, I'd wear it without a problem," he said.

"I would wear it every day of the year if that was the thing, but it doesn't. It stands for all conflicts that Britain has been involved in. Because of the history of where I come from in Derry, I cannot wear something that represents that."

In 2014, McClean was booed off the pitch for not wearing the symbol during Wigan's 3-1 defeat to Bolton, later defending himself in a letter to his then chairman Dave Whelan.

"For people from the North of Ireland such as myself, and specifically those in Derry, scene of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, the poppy has come to mean something very different," he wrote.

"For me to wear a poppy would be as much a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles - and Bloody Sunday especially - as I have in the past been accused of disrespecting the victims of WWI and WWII.

"It would be seen as an act of disrespect to those people; to my people."

McClean was also sent death threats after refusing to wear the poppy while playing for Sunderland in 2012.

Despite online criticisms, supporters are still on a high following Ireland's crucial win.

If there was one picture that summed up the joy of Ireland's success against Wales it was McClean embracing his wife Erin.

After scoring the winning goal at Cardiff City Stadium, all eyes were on Erin, the mother-of-three and long-term partner of the Derry footballer.

The couple wed in 2016, exchanging vows at St Columb's Church in Derry.

Erin, a nursing graduate, prefers life away from the spotlight, but is vocal on social media about supporting her husband.

In 2015, she gave a rare, and brief, interview alongside the couple's best friend Rory Kelly, who revealed McClean had his eye on his now-wife "for quite awhile" before working up the courage to speak to her at a Derry nightclub in 2010.

Meanwhile, Fifa has confirmed that it will investigate an incident during the match where Robbie Brady appeared to flick his head in the direction of Ashley Williams.

Brady will face an anxious wait to discover whether he will face disciplinary action after he was caught by a camera in an apparent moment of petulance during the crucial World Cup qualifier.

Former footballer Kevin Kilbane came to the winger's defence on Twitter yesterday.

"That's just a bit of a laugh on the pitch...Ridiculous to make something of it that it's clearly not!" he wrote.

The much anticipated play-off draw takes place on Tuesday, October 17, in Zurich, and Ireland will be among the bottom four seeds, which will be sorted by the Fifa world rankings.

The four higher seeds based on today's rankings are set to be Italy, Denmark, Croatia and Switzerland, so one of those will almost certainly be Ireland's play-off opponent.

The play-offs will take place over two nights in November, between 9-11 and 12-14.

Irish Independent

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