Growing Up

O'Shea backs matured McClean to shine - at Sunderland or elsewhere

The Black Cats captain speaks to us about his Ireland team-mate’s future and drawing comparisons with Paolo Di Canio and Giovanni Trapattoni.

John O’Shea announces Carslberg as the Official Beer of the Premier League in Dublin last week. Credit: Sportsfile

SUNDERLAND SKIPPER JOHN O’Shea believes James McClean has grown up over the past two years in English football.

The 24-year-old joined the Black Cats from Derry City in August 2011 and took the Premier League by storm in the second half of that season – scoring six goals along the way.

However, as well as being caught up in a couple of social media-related incidents, the winger suffered ‘second season syndrome’ and has since been unable to reach the same heights.

Paolo Di Canio replaced Martin O’Neill back in March and the Italian is keen to put his mark on the squad, which could spell the end of McClean’s career on Wearside. Wideman Emanuele Giaccherini has arrived from Serie A champions Juventus with the Ireland international rumoured to be a target of  Wigan Athletic, Celtic and Blackburn Rovers.

As club captain and an international team-mate, O’Shea made it his business to look out for his compatriot with McClean quoted as saying the defender thought he was his dad.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week, O’Shea said:  ”The last few months he seems to have calmed down. He has worked hard in pre-season and is chomping at the bit to get going. I spoke to him the other day and he told me he wants to get playing and show people what he can do. He can be an important player for club and country in terms of creating and scoring goals.

“I think he learned that it wasn’t as straightforward as going out onto the pitch and running at players and taking people on. There’s a lot more to it than that. The understanding of positional sense when players were just able to read him and take the ball off him quite easily. Physically, he had that initial burst but realised that lads were just as quick and strong as him.

You have to have a bit more about your game, which he does, but you have to realise when to use it.

“After a successful first season it was hard to maintain that standard. He didn’t play as much but when he did he didn’t reach the standards he had set himself. He would have learned a lot from it.”

McClean removed his Twitter account earlier this year after receiving criticism for tweeting about a Wolf Tones song and has had to learn the dangers of social medias the hard way. O’Shea ave him advice at the time.

“I spoke to him about understanding how people want to exploit you especially on the social network sites. They want to use his so-called celebrity status to get more publicity themselves. Whether it be groups or bands or politicians are having a great time jumping on James’ bandwagon. That’s what I was trying to make him aware of.

“He understood it eventually but learned the hard way. When Martin O’Neill was in charge he was trying his level best but you can’t follow him home or take their phones or laptops off them.”

Di Canio gives James McClean instructions. Credit: Steve Drew/EMPICS Sport

Di Canio has used his first pre-season in the North East of England to change their style of play by putting an emphasis on passing.

“From the first day he spoke about wanting to play a certain way, a certain style. We’re playing out from the back a lot more when we can. And making sure we can last the pace of games in terms of his ideas about what intensity we need to be winning more matches. He’s changed the squad around again and there are lots of new faces but they all seem good lads and are willing to take everything on board and have worked hard so far.”

O’Shea also drew comparisons with Di Canio and two other managers he has played under. In his hunger for self-improvement, he sees Alex Ferguson while an obsession with the “little details” reminds him of current Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni.

He wants to improve himself. He wants his team to come along with him. It just comes from a young hungry manager trying to be the best he can and he’s trying to get that across to the players as best he can.

“We had a training game last Saturday and plenty of times during the game he stopped it and wasn’t afraid to do let players know if he wasn’t happy. He’s singling you out because he wants the team to improve and it’s constructive criticism. He’s making the players aware.

“He uses the ‘small details’ phrase quite a bit. Speaking to Adam Johnson, he sees similarities with Mancini. Obviously it’s the Italian trait, the coaching schools maybe. Having a certain way of playing and making sure the concentration and intelligence is there.”

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