James McClean quotes Bobby Sands at 'cavemen' who booed him for not wearing poppy
Irish international soccer player James McClean has described a section of supporters "uneducated cavemen" after the Stoke City footballer suffered a torrent of abuse for deciding not to wear a Remembrance Day poppy.
Footage posted on social media showed Middlesbrough supporters in a corner of Stoke's best365 Stadium hurl abuse at the Republic of Ireland international, who came on as a late substitute in the 0-0 draw between the two sides on Saturday. As McClean made his way to the players' tunnel, Middlesbrough fans booed the winger and unleashed a stream of invective.
Late on Saturday night, McClean, who was also booed by some home fans, responded by quoting Bobby Sands, a member of the Provisional IRA who infamously died in 1981 on hunger strike while imprisoned in Northern Ireland.
"They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn't want to be broken," McClean wrote, quoting Sands. "Your abuse, your throwing things, your booing, do your worst… to the home fans that are actually educated and support me, thank you.
"To the section of uneducated cavemen in the left-hand corner of the Boothen End stand that want to sing their anti-Irish song each game and call me a Fenian this and that... I am a PROUD FENIAN no c@#t will ever change that, so sing away."
McClean's manager Gary Rowett and the club defended the winger's decision. "It's his belief and he's strong enough to come out with his belief, whether you agree with it or not," he said.
It is the latest in a long-running series of clashes for McClean, since he first opted not to wear the poppy upon moving to England in 2011.
"I know many people won't agree with my decision or even attempt to gain an understanding of why I don't wear a poppy," he said last Tuesday. "I accept that but I would ask people to be respectful of the choice I have made."
McClean was born in Derry. He grew up on Creggan estate, where six of the people killed on Bloody Sunday in 1972 were from. He objects to wearing the poppy because it commemorates military personnel who have died in war - and not just those who lost their lives in the two world wars.