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'I'd tell Harry that I don't agree with that. You'd have to put a gun to my head for me to not show up'

James McClean says that while he disagreed with the midfielder’s stance, the Cardiff star has his “backing” now.

Harry Arter and James McClean pictured training at the Aviva Stadium today.
Harry Arter and James McClean pictured training at the Aviva Stadium today.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

- Paul Fennessy reports from the Aviva Stadium

IRELAND WINGER JAMES McClean insists team-mate Harry Arter has his “backing” but said he did not agree with the player’s recent stance that led to a brief, self-imposed exile from the international set-up.

Arter made himself unavailable for selection prior to recent matches with Wales and Poland, following a row with assistant boss Roy Keane.

However, manager Martin O’Neill says the duo have since put aside their differences, prompting Arter’s return to the squad.

McClean, who was also recently critical of Declan Rice’s decision to consider switching allegiance to England, says he is “pleased” to see the Cardiff player back in the set-up.

Obviously, he’s a good lad,” the Stoke star said at today’s press conference. “He’s a good player. At the minute, we need all the good players we can get. He’s here to play for his country. As long as he’s here, he’s got my full backing.”

McClean also suggested the media had made too much of the argument between Keane and Arter.

“Two men having a row — that’s unheard of,” he joked.

“So what? Someone had a go at someone, we’re all grown men at the end of the day. You just get on with it. The morale in the squad is good. It’s always been good.”

Yet the 29-year-old added that he did not agree with Arter’s decision to withdraw from the squad prior to the recent Nations League clash with Wales and the friendly against Poland.

I’d tell Harry myself that I don’t agree with that. You’d have to put a gun to my head for me to not show up and play for Ireland.

“But obviously everyone is different, and he’s here now. He’s a teammate. He’s here to play for Ireland. He’s got my backing 100%.” 

McClean also said he was ready to go, having recently returned to action following a wrist injury that kept him out of Ireland’s last two matches.

“It doesn’t matter who we play,” he added. “There are points here at stake and we want to win both games. We’re at home as well, which gives us a slight advantage. But we’re up against two good sides. Two sides who in the last two games gave us a pasting. So, we’ve got something to prove, especially to ourselves.

Nothing is going to right the wrongs of that night [against Denmark in the World Cup play-off second leg], especially given what was at stake. It was a night that cut very deep, it was very painful, they went on to the World Cup at our expense. No matter the result on Saturday, it won’t right the wrongs of that night. That’s gone. We have to let that go.”

McClean also firmly rejected Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp’s recent comments in which he criticised the Uefa Nations League concept.  

“If Jurgen Klopp said that then it must be true,” he sarcastically quipped.

“We’re here to play for our country. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a friendly, a Uefa Nations League [game] or a qualifier. It means something. It means everything — well, to me anyway.

“Yeah, I couldn’t care less what Jurgen Klopp says, to be honest. I’m here to represent Ireland. And that means everything.”

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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