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Thursday 14 November 2019

What now for James McClean after his Twitter outburst?

James McClean is seen as Giovanni Trapattoni makes a point during the training session
James McClean is seen as Giovanni Trapattoni makes a point during the training session

JAMES McCLEAN'S apology for his Twitter outburst will not be enough to earn him a start in tomorrow's friendly with Oman at Craven Cottage.

Instead, the Sunderland ace will sit on the bench and watch the left wing berth filled by Millwall's Andy Keogh, a recognised striker, who missed out on Euro 2012 and hasn't made a competitive appearance for Ireland in almost two years.

Giovanni Trapattoni insists there is no lingering problem with McClean after his remarkable comments in the wake of last Friday's World Cup qualifying win in Kazakhstan.

The 23-year-old Derryman, who was an unused sub, took to social media to vent his frustration, describing the night as "embarrassing" and a "joke".

He was admonished by senior players and removed the tweet, before Trapattoni made him apologise in front of the rest of the squad on Saturday.

The Italian says the biggest problem is not a lack of respect towards management, but a disrespectful attitude to the players who were involved in the match.

Punishment

Three different forward players -- Simon Cox, Jon Walters and Shane Long -- were used in a wide role during the hard-fought, and fortunate, success.

It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the decision to leave McClean on the bench for the Oman friendly is punishment for his post-match behaviour.

Trapattoni is using the fixture to examine his fringe options, and Aiden McGeady was always scheduled to begin on the bench. McClean started May's friendly win over Bosnia and last month's draw in Serbia and, unlike Keogh, he was brought to Poland.

The Millwall man is well liked by the current regime for his football intelligence, but he is unquestionably a better option in a striking role.

While the Ireland manager is likely to bring the Sunderland winger into the game at some stage, he will miss out on a real chance to make a 90-minute impact.

Indeed, the selection of Manchester United starlet Robbie Brady on the right wing could spell bad news for McClean.

Brady can also operate on both flanks and, if he makes a strong impression, the Dubliner could move up the queue to replace Damien Duff.

Duff has been invited to attend tomorrow's match and Trapattoni has again suggested he will try to talk the veteran out of his decision to retire.

Last week, the desperation to change Duff's mind indicated a lack of trust in McClean, and that's hardly going to have improved following Friday's developments.

It could have been worse for the 23-year-old, however, with Trapattoni claiming that other managers would have thrown him out of the camp.

"Another manager, English or German, would have said take your bag and go home," said the Italian, as he took shade from the London sun after training at the home of AFC Wimbledon.

"I might need him in the game to score a goal and if he goes home, he can't score a goal. But he must have respect for the others.

"It's the same for Darron Gibson. They must understand to have respect for the other. His team-mates spoke to him (McClean) and I know what was said."

It's believed that John O'Shea was particularly unhappy with his club team-mate.

O'Shea is a big supporter of McClean and was part of a group that lobbied for his first-team inclusion at Sunderland when Steve Bruce was reluctant.

Nevertheless, while he is a big believer in the winger's ability, he was unimpressed that he brought a dressing room issue into the public domain.

McClean closed his Twitter account on Saturday after his public apology, although he has disappeared from that outlet before -- in the fallout from the death threats which followed his controversial comments about Catholics lining out for Northern Ireland -- before making an online comeback.

The Ireland manager feels that the youngster has learned a lesson from this episode.

"I could see it in his eyes," he continued, when asked how McClean dealt with Saturday's climbdown.

"He was mortified. If he could have, he would have eaten his words. I said to everyone, 'This is not respect for the manager, this is respect for all. Your colleagues are the players.'

"If I don't play him, I play the other. There was (Stephen) Kelly and (Kevin) Doyle on the bench who have many caps. What can I say?

"He was very, very apologetic. With the young, we need to have patience. They say what they think in the moment."

McClean did approach Trapattoni to ask why he wasn't in the starting team, arguing that his Premier League performances should put him in a strong position.

"I maybe make a mistake," the manager mused. "But I try to do what is best -- I try what is better to do. The manager sees many games, and sees our weaknesses and strength. We pick what we think is better."

Stephen Ward, a non-tweeter, said there would be no lingering resentment from the other players towards McClean.

"Nobody is holding it against him," he said. "He apologised to the lads now. They know he wants to play in every game. It was probably just frustration on his part."

Of course, there are others in the dressing-room who share that frustration, and Darron Gibson has already made the decision to step away from international football after he reached breaking point in Poland.

McClean will have to keep his feelings private from now on, and it's unlikely to get much better for him on the international scene over the coming months.

Odd as it may sound, he is probably worse off now than when Duff was in the camp. From here, the future is deeply uncertain.

Irish Independent

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