'We used to be afraid of our lives' - Niall Quinn on James McClean
Former Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has revealed why James McClean had a habit of sending a shiver down his spine during his formative days as a Premier League star.
Quinn signed young winger McClean from Derry City during his days as Sunderland chief back in 2011, with the Irishman needing time to adjust to life as a high profile star as he constantly made headlines due to his inflammatory messages on Twitter and his spats with match officials and opponents.
Yet 27-year-old McClean has managed to find a balance in his life and career, in a year when he has established himself as one of the stand-out performers in Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland side.
Now Quinn has opened up about the youthful firebrand he signed five years ago, as he revealed McClean’s off-field activities were of more concern than his raw talents on it.
“We used to be afraid of our lives every time he did an interview or what he was going to say next on Twitter,” Ireland legend Quinn to Independent.ie, speaking at an event to promote Sky Sports’ bumper burst of Christmas football.
“What was he going to say next? None of us knew and we just tried to do a quick-fire education for him, give him a bulletproof vest almost and send him out there and see what the real world was like. That was always going to be difficult.
“I remember our club secretary telling him; ‘You can’t be saying this or that’, but he is way past that in terms of maturity.
“He was always going to find himself a little bit left or right of the line when it comes to what is expected of our young players and the spotlight being on that. He had no education in that area.
“He made some mistakes and that was always going to happen for a young kid coming to England and trying to adjust to a new environment, but look at the player we see now and it is a delight for all of us.
“His club manager Tony Pulis and Martin O’Neill with Ireland know he is the kind of character who can lift a team. He might step over the mark at times on and off the pitch, but I have always loved his passion.
“I’m delighted for him. So much happened so quickly for him and it was always going to take a bit of time for him to adjust, but it’s great to see the way he is playing now.”