Martin O'Neill plans 'a wee chat' with James McClean after flag controversy
Martin O'Neill has indicated that he will meet James McClean in the next couple of weeks for a chat about the controversy following his refusal to turn and face the Union Jack before a pre-season friendly in the USA with new club West Brom.
The Derryman's actions provoked an avalanche of criticism and his manager Tony Pulis indicated that he was unhappy with the player.
O'Neill was asked about the situation after the World Cup draw in Russia and declined to offer his personal opinions. Still, he suggested that the matter was important enough to justify a chat with the winger about it.
The Irish boss is extremely fond of McClean having thrown him into the side during his time at Sunderland and then having to cope with the downsides of his rollercoaster ride to fame which featured social media indiscretions.
"I'll hopefully meet him in the next couple of weeks and just maybe have a wee bit of a chat to him," said O'Neill, "I'll have a wee chat to him and see how he is. I like James a lot. I like him as a player, and I like him as a person. I'll have a few words to him. Not in a paternal fashion, but as coach to player."
McClean was also in the headlines over the weekend after it emerged that Rotherham player Kirk Broadfoot has received a ten match ban for sectarian comments he aimed in the direction of the Irishman during his club's Championship battle with Wigan in March. The ban is a record for verbal abuse, beating the eight game sanction handed to Luis Suarez for his racial abuse of Patrice Evra in 2011.
"It's a lengthy ban, isn't it?" said O'Neill, again without passing comment because he is unaware of the specific details.
One issue which has given the 63-year-old reason to be concerned is Shay Given's decision to opt for what seems to be an initial back-up role with Stoke City over guaranteed football in the Championship with Middlesbrough.
Given has been told that highly-rated youngster Jack Butland will kick off the campaign as first choice for Mark Hughes and that is a problem for O'Neill who restored the veteran to his starting team this year on the basis that he was getting a chance at Aston Villa.
"I think with Asmir Begovic going to Chelsea, there was always the possibility they would start with a younger keeper (Butland) they signed for a lot of money at some stage. You'll have to ask Shay. He's obviously not going to start in the side. Like anyone else, I think coming into the games in September, you'd like as many players as possible to be playing regular first team football."