Monday 23 September 2019

McClean: 'I don't care if we only have 10pc possession'

Ireland's James McClean during a training session. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland's James McClean during a training session. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

After a miserable run of results with Stoke, James McClean has arrived on Irish duty this week in search of positivity.

He isn't bothered if this Thursday's visit of Switzerland is not one for the purists, provided it works out well for the hosts.

"I don't care if we've only 10pc possession and we win the game with an own goal," McClean shrugs, "Three points on the board is all that matters."

Stoke only have one point from six games, with manager Nathan Jones coming under real pressure.

McClean, who is learning the ropes at left-back, feels that players should take responsibility for their plight, noting how heads are dropping once they go behind.

The mentality of the Irish group has rarely been questioned, but their quality is often a talking point. McClean grins when the philosophy of Mick McCarthy's successor Stephen Kenny is mentioned.

He grew up working under Kenny at Derry City so is fully aware of his dislike of the Irish stereotype.

"It would be great if we win by playing nice football, but if we do by not playing nice football, then great too," says McClean. "Credit comes when you're winning games. I've said it in the past, it doesn't matter how we win. If you play good football and get beaten, you might be applauded but you're sitting at home watching major tournaments. Does it matter how you win?"

There is a perception about McClean's all-action style, of course. It's often said that he only has one way of playing. His current Irish boss was actually very complimentary about the 30-year-old's ability yesterday, admitting that his own opinion had been changed.

"He's a better player than I ever thought he was," said McCarthy. "Whenever I'd seen him I admired him and sometimes scratched my head as well when other things have gone on with him.

"The first week we came in he was nailed on to play in the team after the first three training sessions. He impressed me that much. He is such a lovely fella, He gets a bad rap everywhere he goes but he is a great guy, he has a real positive influence on everybody.

"He works hard and he is far better than that and far more intelligent than that player who just runs up and down the wing and crosses."

McClean, for his part, says that the Stoke experience has helped his positional awareness. He will likely return to more familiar territory on Thursday, with Enda Stevens behind him as he presses on forward.

The approach will be to make life uncomfortable for the guests; he does feel that any recent troubles at the Aviva Stadium are borne out of a cagey approach.

"I think the days of fear and giving teams too much respect... I think in the past maybe that might have gone against us," he stresses.

"Of course I will respect Switzerland but I think we need to just get after teams and try and impose ourselves on them rather than maybe worrying about what they're going to do.

Fearful

"The manager, from day one, has said just get after teams, press them high and make them fearful of us. Get in their faces and make us horrible to play against.

"Obviously when you play the bigger sides you've got to do your homework on how to stop them. When you're playing the so-called bigger sides and against the so-called better players you want to put it up to them and show them, 'look, I'm a good player and I want to pit myself against you'.

"So, yeah, maybe it gives you that extra little bit of motivation to get after teams and say, 'we're not fearful of you, we want to give you a game here'."

He doesn't need reminding that the stakes are high this week. The retirement of his good pal David Meyler served as a reminder to McClean that he's in the senior bracket.

At Stoke, he's working with 18-year-old talent Nathan Collins, an exciting part of a new generation coming through. But there's still life in McClean.

The old fire still burns, as the Swiss will discover.

Irish Independent

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