Friday 24 November 2017

James McClean pens open letter reiterating his stance on not wearing poppy

James McClean of West Bromwich Albion reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland at The Hawthorns on October 17
James McClean of West Bromwich Albion reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland at The Hawthorns on October 17

Eoin Harrington

West Brom midfielder James McClean has reiterated that he will not be wearing a poppy for Remembrance Day this November.

The Irishman spoke to the club’s match-day programme on Saturday to explain why he refuses to wear a poppy and why he will continue to stand by his beliefs.

“If I didn’t stand by principles, if I didn’t have beliefs, I wouldn’t be the person I am and I probably wouldn’t be in the Premier League. Standing up for things is in my character. I was brought up to be honest and stay true to myself," wrote McClean in Saturday's match programme.

“Coming from where I do, we are proud people, we wear our hearts on our sleeves, that’s who I am, on and off the field. Sometimes it gets me into trouble, but the frustrating thing about that is the way I’m portrayed rather than the truth of it, and so I want to take the chance to make it clear to Albion supporters what I’m about.

“We are coming up to Remembrance Day and I won’t wear a poppy on my shirt when those games come around. People say that by not wearing a poppy, I’m being disrespectful but they don’t ask why it is that I choose not to wear it.

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“If the poppy was simply about World War One and Two victims alone, I would wear it without a problem. I’d wear it every day of the year if that was the thing, but it doesn’t, it stands for all the conflicts that Britain has been involved in.”

Sunderland fans taunted the 26-year-old throughout the game with chants of “f*** the IRA”, in response to McClean’s refusal to wear a poppy while playing for the club on Remembrance Weekend in 2012.

The former Derry City and Wigan player has been involved in several incidents of this nature in the past. As recently as this summer, he refused to face the English flag for ‘God Save the Queen’ during West Brom’s tour of America.

McClean was responsible for a scuffle involving some former Sunderland teammates after Saturday’s Premier League match at the Hawthorns, for which he is expected to face disciplinary action from the FA.

McClean was seen celebrating Albion’s 1-0 win in front of Sunderland supporters, whom he fell out with during his two year spell with the club. Several Sunderland players then confronted him, including Lee Cattermole, who himself has faced disciplinary action in the past for several incidents.

Referee Martin Atkinson is rumoured not to have seen the incident on Sunday and so it will not be included in his post-match report, meaning the FA can now take retrospective action if they see fit.

West Brom manager Tony Pulis refused to comment directly on the incident, but has taken a swipe at McClean’s less-than-desirable antics.

“Let me have a look at it first,” Pulis said in a post-match interview, “if he’s out of order I’ll speak to him. He’s not the sharpest tool in the box, and that’s not being disrespectful to him. But he’s a smashing lad.”

West Brom’s next game is on Saturday at Norwich, but whether McClean will be available for selection rests in the hands of the FA’s disciplinary committee.

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