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'James is entitled to do what he wants... It's entirely his choice and I think we should respect it'

Martin O’Neill has backed the winger, who has been the subject of more controversy recently.

James McClean (file pic).
James McClean (file pic).
Image: Anthony Devlin

IRELAND BOSS MARTIN O’Neill says he is unaware of the details surrounding the latest James McClean-poppy controversy, but speaking more generally about the issue, feels the player deserves to be respected.

Over the years while playing at a number of English teams, McClean has repeatedly had to explain and defend his decision not to wear a poppy to mark Remembrance Day — an event in Britain and other members of the Commonwealth honouring the memory of armed forces who have died in the line of duty.

The winger’s current club, Stoke, previously released a statement saying they would not pressure McClean into wearing a poppy, however a section of the club’s support have targeted the player for abuse as a result of his stance.

McClean subsequently hit back, labelling the fans in question “uneducated cavemen,” while the Football Association have warned the player for his use of an offensive word on social media.

Speaking at a press conference today in Dublin, O’Neill backed his player’s decision not to wear a poppy.

“James is entitled to do what he wants,” the Irish manager said. “This was the entire point. It’s entirely his choice and I think we should respect it.

James obviously becomes the focus of attention around this particular time… Nothing unusual about that.”

Injured pair Jon Walters and Stephen Ward were the most notable absentees from O’Neill’s 36-man Ireland squad announced today.

The 66-year-old coach said he was pleased with the return of Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady, who missed previous games due to injury.

However, the upcoming fixtures against Northern Ireland and Denmark, which take place on 15 and 19 November, have come too soon for James McCarthy, as the midfielder continues to recover from the broken leg he suffered earlier this year. Despite the player recently lining out for Everton U23s, he is not yet ready for an international call-up.

“He was hoping, about a month ago, to have made this particular squad. I think Everton just want to be a little bit more careful than perhaps before,” O’Neill added.

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Paul Fennessy

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