The James McClean Puzzle - Xtratime Community
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The James McClean Puzzle

Posted July 3rd, 2012 at 01:17 by

Originally written by Coachers on ourweecountry.co.uk

Part 1

James McClean is certainly attracting the headlines of late, but at a time when the Derry lad should be rejoicing at being presented with the opportunity of fulfilling most schoolboys' dreams of playing in a major football championships, it is the front page headlines that are making all the noise.

Stories of alleged death threats made against one of the highlights of Sunderland F.C.'s mediocre season took centre stage earlier this year, but the latest development has witnessed a number of unprecedented attacks by the player on both the Irish Football Association and their supporters.

While the comments attributed to McClean that appeared in the redtops this week may be no more than a regurgitation of those made in a frank interview with Dion Fanning of the Irish Independent more than a month ago, it will be of no more comfort to those in power at Windsor Avenue and indeed those members of the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs (AoNISC), whose highly commended work of promoting "football for all" in Northern Ireland resulted in them being awarded the internationally recognised Brussels International Supporters Award in 2006.

But the question most with a keen interest in the game will be asking is whether there is any truth in McClean's comments.

Before looking into his claims that saw headlines such as 'James McClean has insisted no Catholic could feel at home playing for Northern Ireland' that greeted us in our morning run to our places of employment, it is worth reminding ourselves of the comments that appear to be the origin of the stories that have Northern Ireland fans shaking their heads in disbelief.

"I can even remember playing under 21s for Northern Ireland and even standing for the national anthems . . . You're looking around Windsor Park as a Catholic and seeing all the Union Jacks and listening to the songs the fans sing and I just didn't feel at home at all. Even in the squads I felt like a bit of an outsider. There weren't too many Catholics, it just didn't feel right."

McClean, in his comments above, actively remembers representing the U21's for Northern Ireland; however a quick check through the history books shows that it was as far back as 2008 when he pulled on the Green and White shirt of Northern Ireland. It was a victorious U20's side that lifted the Milk Cup, with McClean scoring in the opening 3-1 victory against the USA.

Moving on with his Northern Ireland career, the then Derry City wing went onto represent his original International team a total of seven times at U21 level. Indeed, it was a jovial McClean who was pictured in his Northern Ireland shirt when facing Germany in 2008; a shirt that 'now hangs proudly' on the walls of the clubhouse at Oakland Park, the home of one of his former clubs, Trojans Youth & Community Group in the Creggan.

At this stage their was little indication to the wider public of the issues that McClean has now viewed, although with hindsight comments posted on his Facebook Account at the time by his friends, who noticed that he refused to raise his head during the playing the National Anthem, indicated that this may not have been the case. Comments included 'Spot the only 2 heads down ha', 'James McClean Legendary ryt there lol' and 'its alryt jamesy we no ur jst ashamed to play for northen ireland'.

So what were those songs that McClean heard and how many Union Jacks, one would guess the same Union Jacks that are flown at the Stadium of Light each week, did he see when playing for the Under 21's at Windsor?

Now that is when the whole debate gets interesting.

It appears that McClean has never actually represented Northern Ireland at Windsor Park.

Within his 7 appearances for the U21s, one was at a neutral ground, three were played away and three at home; the location of the home games being Ballymena, Shamrock Park and The Oval.

Adding further fuel to McClean's claims, anyone who has attended an U21 game in recent years, with the exception of the Milk Cup, will note that the attendances are relatively poor and mostly made up of parents and friends of the players. If there were inappropriate songs or flags being flown, then surely would we not have heard of it well in advance of the four year time lag that his taken for his claims to rise to the surface?

Perhaps a question that James himself will be prepared to answer?

Often on return to their homeland after a short spell away players have been known to fade into obscurity, however to his credit McClean continued to impress and those with knowledge of his game were shocked when the youngster was not selected for the Northern Ireland Senior Squad to compete in the infamous Carling Cup.

McClean's despair was evident at this stage, when in the Derry Journal he noted "I honestly felt that not just me, but a few of the players at Derry City would have been good enough to be called into the squad after so many senior players had dropped out".

It is a further quote within the same article that some would see to cast dispersions in McClean's current view of the Northern Ireland. The quote in question being

"International recognition is very important to most players. I enjoyed playing for the Under-21s and, therefore, any call-up to the senior squad would be considered an honour".

So surely a call-up to the Senior Squad was what he was after to ease the disappointment of not being considered for the Carling Cup?

Well, that call came on the 26th July 2012 when McClean was invited to join the senior squad for the Euro Qualifier against the Faroe Islands.

While various reports in the media attributed to McClean suggest he turned down the invitation, the following video appears to suggest differently, http://www.extratime.../articles/6272/, and indeed the player is heard to state 'I am delighted to be called into the squad'.

Further to that, McClean's posted on his Facebook account at the time about the call up with a 'smiley face', which was followed by numerous offers of congratulations from his friends.

As the game approached, more and more speculation followed regarding McClean's domestic future, with Wigan joining the crowd of admirers following the breakdown of a move to Peterborough.

Speculation reached fever pitch on the 6th August 2011 when it was reported that the player was to sign for Sunderland, but the shock news from a Northern Ireland perspective came a day later when it was announced that McClean had withdrawn from the squad.

When questioned about his decision via his Facebook account amidst speculation that he had been 'reminded' that his loyalties should lie with a 32-county Ireland, he went onto post

"Av made a decision for me personally i think would benefit me and am not gna explain myself to anyone for it. Its my decision end off case closed"

Within the same media McClean is quoted as stating "Same way ni over looked me for the past two years all of a sudden am gettin a move am in the squad"; a bizarre statement considering he had been involved in Northern Ireland squads since 2008 and was called up to the Senior squad before his Sunderland move materialised.

McClean's dream move came on the 9th August when he put pen to paper and signed a three year deal for Sunderland.

The withdrawal from the Northern Ireland squad fuelled further speculation that the Republic were now interested in McClean and further quotes in the media by the player appeared to suggest that he was open to their approaches.

Moving forward a few months McClean made his debut under Martin O'Neill for Sunderland and soon to follow it was another O'Neill, this time Michael, who approached the winger to consider his options and return to the Northern Ireland setup.

McClean rejected the offer stating: 'If I don't get called up by Ireland, I'll live with that.' which was subsequently followed by a tweet 'Following my dream, mine was never going to change.'

Thoughts on 'GAWA' forums appear to suggest that the majority were of the view that if it was his dream to play for the Republic of Ireland, then why did McClean choose to represent Northern Ireland previously and take away the dream of players who would cherish wearing the jersey with pride; a point hard to argue against.

The 6th February saw the powers to be at Windsor Avenue resigned to losing McClean, with an IFA source noting "...McClean is now eligible to play for the Republic. Its disappointing but we wish him well."

One would have though that would have brought to the end the relationship between McClean and the Northern Ireland Supporters, but judging by the latest series of events that appears to not be the case.
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    Part 2

    Moving back to McClean's original comments in the Irish Independent regarding his issues with the National Anthem and the Union Jack, it is perhaps worth noting that McClean previously had stressed in January 2012 that politics were of no concern of his, with a notable quote being

    "There's been talk about politics, but that doesn't interest me in the slightest. I'm a footballer and I want to be the best I can be and play at the highest possible level. I'm not interested in politics,"

    Such a quote is in stark contrast to McClean's Facebook profile which stated that his political views were that of 'Sinn Fein', while recently his profile picture on twitter was showing him holding a monument of 'Free Derry Corner'.

    Indeed, some would argue that McClean's reaction to Match of the Day 2 presenter Colin Murray's reference to him as being Northern Irish while offering praise, which resulted in the Derry man tweeting 'Colin Murray get it right will you its #Irish' shows a different side to the character that he attempts to portray.

    While McClean's past interviews and current recollections of the past seem to be somewhat, how should I put it, bizarre, the most strange is that of 'there weren't too many Catholics, it just didn't feel right'.

    One thing for sure is, as football supporters the last thing we want to do is get into dissecting each International Squad, as McClean appears to have done, to determine religious makeup.

    More telling is the following statement by current Celtic boss, Neil Lennon, at an IFA Football Awards Ceremony

    "People like Stewart [McAfee of the AoNISC] are the Unsung Heroes who have been brave enough to challenge sectarianism and who have actively created a more fun, safe and family orientated atmosphere at international games. Fans like Stewart have made the atmosphere at Northern Ireland football games in recent years the envy of Fans across not only Europe but World Football. From a personal point of view I would like to thank them for their efforts."

    I guess the only one who can guide us through the puzzle of confusion that James McClean has created is the man himself.

    Perhaps our media, who were so prominent in the advancement of his views, will stand up and question the inaccuracies in the stories that he tells?
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    Posted July 3rd, 2012 at 01:22 by Pumba Pumba is offline
 
 
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