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James McClean 'a little bit annoyed' about lack of public support from Irish team-mates

McClean spoke up this week about the abuse he has endured as a player in England for nine years.

File photo of James McClean.
File photo of James McClean.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Updated Jul 16th 2020, 12:29 PM

JAMES MCCLEAN SAYS he is “a little bit annoyed” at the lack of public support for him among his Republic of Ireland team-mates. 

McClean this week spoke out about the abuse he has endured online, at home and in stadia ever since he declined to wear a Remembrance Day poppy in 2011, citing his respect for the victims of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry. 

In the context of football’s support for the Black Lives Matter and the widespread condemnation of racist messages sent to Wilfried Zaha and David McGoldrick online, McClean asked earlier this week why he has not been given the same level of support over the abuse he has endured. 

“I feel I can take on anything”, McClean told BBC Radio Foyle this morning. “It doesn’t affect me as much as it affects my family. Up until I had my first daughter I brushed it off and said I’d fight fire with fire. I have done in the past and retaliated here and there, and have done a couple of things to wind up the situation.

“I had my daughter and I realised I hadn’t really taken into consideration my mother’s feelings and my wife’s feelings. When you’re having bullets sent in the post and letters sent…it’s horrific abuse. It’s constant, every single day on social media.

“Some of the stuff said is unbelievable, and any self-respecting person wouldn’t accept it.

Because you’re a footballer you’re told, ‘You earn this so you should be able to take this.’ It’s not a fair world we live in, when you’re footballer. People might say you’re crying and say they would take the abuse if they were in the same position, but I’m telling you now, they wouldn’t.”

McClean says he has been encouraged by the messages of support he has received since doing the interview with TalkSPORT, although has not yet been contacted by any of his Republic of Ireland team-mates. 

“If one of them is offended by that, that says how they are feeling. If they feel offended they must feel a level of guilt. To be honest, I’m not expecting calls off any of them but I stand by what I said.

“I understand the poppy situation, I know some people down South probably don’t have a full understanding what happened up in the North and that’s fine, I’m not asking players not to wear a poppy as the backlash is huge.

“I’ve never asked anyone to do that. I fully understand they don’t want the backlash and they want an easy life, I get that. I have no issue with that.

“But what I am getting discriminated for also affects them. So when I see them posting the other stuff: what I’m getting discriminated for has more relevance to them, but yet they stay quiet.

As much as I respect everything else, you can’t pick and choose what to get behind. That’s where I lose that little bit of respect, when that happens. Look, I like every single one of them and never had an issue with any of them, but it does hurt a little bit as I know for a fact that if the roles were reversed and one of my team-mates [was being discriminated against] I would 100% back them. In that sense, that hurt a little bit. But at the same time, I get that they want an easy life, and that’s fair as well.

“But that doesn’t mean I don’t have to feel a little bit annoyed about it.” 

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McClean also revealed that the abuse has sometimes led him to ponder retirement. 

“There have been a lot of times where I’ve thought, ‘Do I really need this?’

“I’m 31 and almost thinking, ‘When is the best time to retire? There are days you’re thinking of putting a date on retirement, and that’s not always what you want to do. You want to retire when you feel you’re body isn’t up to the level.

“You shouldn’t have to put a date on your retirement. But there are times I’m thinking, my kids are starting to get a bit older and they are starting to go to games and starting to ask questions, and I don’t want them to hear it, first and foremost, and I don’t want to sit and explain to them why [the abuse happens].” 

McClean said he regrets an Instagram post in May, in which he wore a balaclava while surrounded by his children, captioned “Today’s School Lesson – History.” Stoke fined McClean two weeks’ wages and he has since deleted his Instagram account. 

“The balaclava thing was a few weeks ago, and you have to take into consideration that I got eight years of horrendous abuse before that. People perceive me as an IRA supporter – and in the past I’ve even been accused of being a member of the IRA – and people perceive me as this regardless of what I say”, said McClean.

“It wasn’t the brightest thing to do,

“It was just a photo – and people have seen the caption – that was supposed to be funny, as people perceive me this way anyway.

“Of course it wasn’t the right thing to do, I didn’t take into consideration the offence it was going to cause to people, and I do regret the balaclava thing.”

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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