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Dublin: -1°C Thursday 6 May 2021

'He'll be a very big player for us' - McClean backed to improve on career-best season

The Republic of Ireland winger was Stoke City’s Player of the Year for the 2019-20 campaign.

Stoke City's James McClean.
Stoke City's James McClean.
Image: Martin Rickett

JAMES MCCLEAN WAS voted Stoke City’s top performer for the 2019-20 season by the club’s supporters, but his manager believes he’s capable of even more.

In terms of goals and assists – seven each – it was McClean’s best campaign since he moved to England from Derry City in 2011.

As he prepares for his first full season in charge of Stoke, Michael O’Neill reckons the Republic of Ireland winger can still improve.

After succeeding Nathan Jones as manager last November, O’Neill oversaw a significant improvement in the fortunes of the Championship club.

Stoke, who were bottom of the table when the former Northern Ireland boss took over, finished the season in 15th place, with McClean earning their Player of the Year award. 

“He had a very good season for us, James. I think it was seven goals and seven assists,” O’Neill said in an interview with TalkSport.

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“The target for him is to get double figures in both of them. He probably should have scored 10 goals, to be honest, and he knows that himself.

“The one thing you can get from James is honesty in terms of how he plays the game, the distance he covers in the game, and what he gives to the team both attacking wise and defensively, and that can’t be questioned.

“There are elements of his game we would like to see adapted and to be brought into his game. But to score seven goals from a wide position is a real positive. To put in the amount of crosses he did was a real positive and also to do the work he does for the team.

“Towards the end of the season we played him as a left wing-back and he adapted to that position well.

“We need to get as much out of him as possible. He’ll be a very big player for us this year.”

McClean, who joined Stoke City from West Bromwich Albion in 2018, made 36 appearances for his club last season.

He received 49% of the votes to win his club’s Player of the Year award ahead of Sam Clucas and Nick Powell. 

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Paul Dollery

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