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McClean raring to go after 'frustrating' pre-season

The winger has returned to club action and is itching to get back into the green jersey.

McClean is available for Ireland after missing the Georgia game last month.
McClean is available for Ireland after missing the Georgia game last month.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

JAMES MCCLEAN SAYS he is getting better with each passing week and can’t wait to contribute to the Ireland team again – provided Martin O’Neill selects him for this Saturday’s home Euro 2016 qualifier against Gibraltar.

The winger picked up an injury back in July that disrupted his pre-season and also ruled him out of Ireland’s first qualifier last month, where an Aiden McGeady screamer gave Martin O’Neill’s men a 2-1 win in Georgia. McClean has played a couple of league games for Wigan since and feels ready to get back on the international stage.

“It is always frustrating being injured, especially when I got injured,” McClean said.

“I missed the whole pre-season and a few games here. It is good to be back and as each week goes on I feel sharper and hopefully I get the nod on Saturday and help the team out.”

Despite having previously worked with O’Neill at Sunderland, his old club manager hasn’t yet tipped his hand as to whether McClean will be involved from the start this Saturday. McClean likes that O’Neill waits to name his line-up because it fosters competition in training and he also appreciates that the Irish boss allows him to be creative.

“The manager doesn’t give anything away and usually names the team just before kick-off,” McClean said.

“I think that’s good because it keeps people on their toes. If he names the side, some people might feel down and others might not give their all in training.

“When the manager puts his faith and confidence in you it almost gives you a new lease of life. We had a great relationship at Sunderland. When the manager puts his trust in you, especially as winger, it gives you the confidence to try things.”

The build-up to the Gibraltar game has focused far more on the release of assistant manager Roy Keane’s book than the game itself but McClean maintains that the noise hasn’t really filtered through to the players. He thinks Keane has been a positive influence on the squad, and on the novice players in particular.

“That’s Roy’s book and it is his thing,” McClean said.

“It is not going to impact what we do on the pitch because that is his business.

“I was in awe of working with Roy Keane [when he started with Ireland]. You can just see him around the place and everyone is on their toes to impress him. It is great to have a presence like that around, especially for the younger players.”

After Poland’s 7-0 rout of Gibraltar, most people are expecting Ireland to be a few goals too good for the minnows. Ireland are 1/100 to win the game, and McClean thinks the fans have the right to be confident, but the players still need to be professional in seeing out the game.

“The fans are entitled to think that [Ireland will win] especially because it is Gibraltar’s first time in qualifying,” McClean said.

“If we get an early goal, then great but we just need to make sure we get three points at the end of it.”

Today’s Gift Grub is all about Gibraltar (definitely not about Roy’s book)

Quiz: Which Second Captains presenter are you?

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