Saturday, 13 August 2011

James McClean: An Irish point of view.

1) Do you think James McClean can cut it in the Premier League?
The short answer would be no, at least not right away. Very few players have come from the League of Ireland and slotted straight into the top level of English football. James McClean will leave Derry City as one of their most prized sons but will arrive at Sunderland as a prospect rather than a sure and quick answer to a defensive gap. Then again, Sunderland aren't flush with quality out wide, at least not to my eyes. Steve Bruce said that, upon confirmation of the transfer, McClean has "every chance to come here and make the next step in his career [and he] is an outstanding young talent." Bruce appears to like him, so with a little space in the squad, there's no reason to believe that James McClean won't have an opportunity to develop, but it shouldn't be expected straight away.

2) What's the general feeling amongst Derry fans, looking forward to seeing how he does, or annoyed with him for going?
There's no financial security for these players, they're all on fragile deals at any given time, so very few fans would begrudge a player a contract at an English side. A move to a good side in England is massive for any League of Ireland player; most supporters' best wishes will be with him. Sunderland are a big side, and they're the receptacle of a lot of Irish support from both sides of the Northern/Republic divide. Significant dissent from the Derry fans would be difficult to justify as, realistically, this is the opportunity that every kid dreams of. He'll be missed, of course.

3) What type of player is McClean; strengths, weaknesses, attitude?
Links with Blackpool, West Ham, Everton and Reading over the past year - and now his move to Sunderland - would indicate that these big clubs see something serious in him. He's naturally a good athlete, quick off the mark, full of energy. The best thing about him, or the most endearing thing perhaps, is that he has constantly improved since he broke into the Derry City team. He works really hard at the different aspects of his game. For example, game after game, his deliveries from the wing seem to get more dangerous. He's has been a big factor in Derry striker Eamon Zayed's goal tally this year.

4) If you could liken him to a well known player, who would it be?
Any time I see him I always think of Barcelona's Pedro. They're both built similarly; they're quick, energetic. They've also got a great mentality, really likable players.

5) There's been some controversy lately about James turning Northern Ireland's national team down, can you shed some light on the situation?
This is one of a number of defections over recent years. It really is about a lot more than seeing more success with the Republic of Ireland. It is is his own personal desire, his dream, to play for the Republic of Ireland. That comes from a sense of national pride. McClean's heart is shamrock green, so for him and for some others, the idea of Northern Ireland is probably tinged with a little British blue. He plays for Derry City, the only club from Northern Ireland that play in the League of Ireland. That in itself says a lot, as there is a very competitive domestic league in that county which, I'm sure, would have been an option were he that way inclined.

I would also add that, despite what some people are saying, it isn't as if Northern Ireland have been developing him for years. Derry manager Steven Kenny has said that he had to recommend McClean for selection to the Northern Ireland squad, so they haven't exactly been all over him since his youth; they haven't been robbed of an asset that they have been zealously guarding.

6) Will he be a big miss to Derry or is the £350k more valuable?
He will be a big loss to Derry, but they do have a good squad that will hopefully continue their good form. The money will be a comfort though. That's absolutely HUGE money for a League of Ireland side. He is one of their own products, so that's pure profit too. Money is really tight in our domestic leagues so you can't refuse that kind of offer.

7) Do you think he can emulate the success that David Meyler and Daryl Murphy have had at Sunderland; having been signed from the Irish league?
A good number of players have gone onto England from the League of Ireland and been successful. Circumstances are right for James McClean to be another. There is a good Irish contingent at Sunderland at the moment so I'm sure he'll feel very welcome there. I think I'm right in saying that there isn't exactly a lot of competition wide on the left at Sunderland, so he'll probably get some game time quite quickly. He'll be playing with quality players, so responsibility won't just be heaped upon him. I really wouldn't be surprised if that £350,000 turned out to be a great value investent for Steve Bruce.

8) Do you think losing players from the Irish league is showing a lack of ambition, or do you think it shows the quality of it?
It definitely shows that there's quality in the league. There's more there if any other English sides want some of it too. Financially, there's no way for Irish teams to even think of resisting offers like this one though. Our domestic game just doesn't create the revenue that would enable clubs to say no when their James McClean or Kevin Doyle are wanted by a bigger English side. We're miles off having big television deals, sponsorship contracts or anything like that. My local side, Bray Wanderers, only get a few hundred at every game despite the fact that they're playing in the top flight.

9) Are there any other players in the Irish league that you think can make the step up?
Considering how cheap these players can be bought for, I do find it a little curious that we don't export more men over to England. Championship clubs are really missing a trick, I think, as they could get real quality if they just sent a few scouts over with a checkbook. I'd love to see Adam Mitchell from Bray go over and be given a go. He's a great centre half, still young, albeit with a bit of a temper.

10) Finally, any stand-out memories of McClean?
James McClean scored an absolute screamer a few months ago when Derry beat Galway United 6-0. He took possession in central midfield and glided past three men before firing a low one home past the Galway 'keeper. If that can happen in Sunderland's stripes, he'll become very popular, very quickly.

Thanks to Cathal for this interview, you can follow him on twitter at @

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