Patience a virtue for Trojan McClean
Listening to James McClean’s prospects and intentions for his future would give the green army good reason to be optimistic of booking a flight to Russia in 2018. The ex Trojan Institute man feels his career is now finally on the path that showed so much promise when he first graced the Premier League with Sunderland back in 2011. Under Steve Bruce he didn’t kick a first team ball in anger, as Bruce was insistent that he was one for the future. It wasn’t until current Ireland manager Martin O’Neil took over from Bruce at Sunderland that the true signs of a great potential were revealed. During a rich vein of form in 2012 he was overlooked by Giovanni Trapattoni despite the constant bleating by some sports journalists and joe public. When he finally made the squad under Trapattoni progress was slow, however his recent performances seem to suggest that the waiting game applied by Bruce and Trap may have been for the best.
McClean says about Bruce; “I thought I was ready but at the same time I wasn’t going to kick up a fuss because he’s been in the game a lot more than I’ve been”. His performances in the last two internationals showed a great level of maturity as he netted in both vital fixtures to help put Ireland top of Group D. As recently as four days before the qualifier in Vienna McClean could barely walk as ongoing problems with his back almost prevented him from playing any part. “I was in a very bad way. All credit to the medical staff at both West Brom and Ireland; they did wonders to get me fit for the game. I had an epidural on Tuesday at the hospital in Dublin. That really improved it. I managed to get on the pitch and play as long as I could. For the last 15 or 20 minutes it started to tighten up”. This back injury has caused him problems through the years intermittently. “Over the last few years, when I was at Derry I’ve always had back issues. It’s not very regular, it’s every few months I’d be stiff, wake up very sore, it would be sore for a few days and then ease off. We can now see why O’Neil substituted McClean in the 85th minute in Vienna. Knowing more about this problem now would suggest that the Derry man can offer so much more if he can stay injury free. Hopefully Tony Pulis at McClean’s current club West Brom will exercise as much caution over the coming months. Especially with Irelands next qualifier not scheduled until March at home to neighbours Wales.
McClean spoke very highly of his team mates and management team for both club and country. Before firing home the winner against Austria he mentions thinking what Roy Keane coaches when bearing down on goal. “I was just making sure I hit the target because if you don’t hit the target you don’t score.” Plaudits were also available for Wes Hoolahan and his contribution to the goal; “with Wes on the ball he’s going to find you, he’s got that quality.”
Speaking about life in England McClean claims that a level of maturity hits you when you are out on your own. Despite being a “Mammy’s Boy” he has managed to get through the difficult years, albeit with some help from good friend and team mate David Meyler. This maturity has helped his game and his knowledge of players around him. “As I get older I’m starting to learn more about the game, when to time my runs and be more aware of my position on the pitch.”
At 27 McClean feels he has a lot to prove, so what we have seen so far might only be the start of a hugely successful career. Hopefully he will have a World Cup Finals appearance on his CV before he turns 30. By his own accounts he is happy on and off the pitch. For those who have showed great faith in his abilities and potential he feels he owes a great deal of debt. Being a Premier League player puts his performances in the spotlight. This holds no fear for McClean as he feels at home now and insists that he belongs there. There is no argument that he has shown great improvement and maturity of late along with his undoubted work rate and commitment. His work rate alone is not what he wants to be remembered for. He will always be known as someone who will run all day long regardless of what manager or team he is playing for, it seems to be in his DNA. He insists that he offers a lot more than just great commitment to the cause and someone who works tirelessly. “I want to keep improving and hopefully score a few more goals, and get a few more assists.” So, while we are saving the roubles have a good think about this young man’s ambitions. He is in a good place now and if a few more take example from his ambitious but realistic attitude, we could well be on our way to Russia in 2018.