Interview James Mc Clean
Speaking after Ireland’s famous World Cup Qualifier away win in Austria, goal scorer and ‘man of the match’ James McClean was in a very positive frame of mind. At 27 years of age can McClean build on all this current positivity? Can he be compared to other great Irish internationals of the past and additionally can he build sufficient further reputation to land a transfer and lucrative contract with one of the ‘big boys’ in the Premier League or with one of giants of the major European leagues.
From an education of what he described in his interview with Ger Gilroy on Newstalk106–108fm as ‘street football’ McClean joined Derry City. After making his debut in August 2008, he built enough of a reputation from his League of Ireland performances to merit a move to play Premiership football at Sunderland in August 2011. Despite the fact that Steve Bruce bought McClean as “one for the future” he did not make his debut until Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge in December of that year. From then until now, McClean in addition to Sunderland he has also played for Wigan and West Brom. Over that period, he played good football and was scoring goals.He did himself no harm when he signed for Wigan after their famous FA Cup win in 2014 and then played in the Community Shield at Wembley Stadium against Manchester United. The most important point in relation to this time is he established himself as an international player with 46 caps to date under the present manager Martin O’Neill and previously under Giovanni Trapattoni.
In the interview, McClean talked about where he was at today saying “I’ve been in England four or five years. You learn a lot. I am learning more about myself and my game everyday. I feel I am a better player now than I ever was.”
In relation to the question about comparison to great past Irish internationals, the simple truth is McClean is right in the middle of his career at present. Therefore the jury is definitely still out on that issue. However if he continues to consistently display his current impressive form, especially in the course of the current World Cup campaign, that conversation may happen or become much more relevant or appropriate. Additionally if he can win any honours in his club career in the future that would help. It is certainly the case that McClean is building a fine reputation. There are a number of negatives which need to be taken into consideration in relation to his career. First how many more successful seasons will a 27 year old get? Secondly, there is a higher than average risk of injury given the difficulties with his back which he discussed in the interview; “Over the last few years, when I was at Derry I’ve always had back issues. It is not very regular, it’s every few months I’d be stiff wake up very sore for a few days and then ease off.” Thirdly, he said that he has been playing in England 4 or 5 years. He has played against all the big teams over that time. If there was sufficient potential it would that have been noticed or reported to the relevant managers and an offer of a transfer could have been made. There is no evidence that such an offer came around during this period of his career.
Football at times can be everything that a player dreams of however, the reality for a large percentage of the time is it can be cruel, harsh and hard particularly in situations where you might get a career ending injury or you are called into a manager’s office to inform that your current contact will not be renewed.The situation for James McClean based on recent events is at the upper end of the scale. He certainly is making a substantial living but at present that ‘big money making transfer’ is not on the table and maybe he will just have to be satisfied with that situation at this time .