James McClean: Derry City, Sunderland and ‘a language we all understand’

The quote is adapted from Phil Coulter’s song about Derry and the Troubles, The Town I Love So Well (he also co-wrote Puppet on a String but we bear no grudges). The language supporters of SAFC and Derry City understand is football, played in red and white stripes …

When Steve Bruce brought James McClean from Derry City for the the amount of money top players earn in a fortnight, our own Pete Sixsmith posed the question in an article at Salut! Sunderland: “Is he our new Johnny Crossan?”

A few months on, in our three-part interview with Crossan himself, the same question was put a little differently:

Salut!: Tell us about James McClean, a product like you of Derry City and already on our bench a few times so far …


I’d say he has half a chance of making it. He still has a lot to learn but he is an out-and-out left winger who cuts inside very well, though he’s not then great on his right foot. But if he gets the bit between his teeth he could do well.

And we saw for ourselves yesterday what McClean may be capable of. When he came on to the field, Sunderland were trailing 1-0 to lowly Blackburn Rovers, who then stood a fair chance of ending the day less lowly than us. We had piled forward in the second half, anxious to make amends for the distinctly relegation performance that had passed before, but without success. Paul Robinson had been excellent in the Rovers goal; we, sadly, are woefully short in the established striker department.

What happened then reminded me of another debutant left-winger, George Mulhall, nearly half a century ago (I wish I could say my great-uncle from Ryhope told me about it but no, I was there, on the Roker End). In his first home game (SAFC 3 Luton 1), he showed such skill and pace down the left, beating his man over and again before sending over penetrating crosses, that an old man behind me said simply: “He’ll do.”

McClean is a natural. He likes to run at his marker and, unlike so many Sunderland players we have seen out wide in recent years, seems to enjoy having a go at getting past him before getting the ball into the box. The effect was close to electrifying and spread to the rest of the team.

The £350,000 we paid Derry City begins to look almost criminally low. I have noticed over at derrycitychat.com that Derry get £10,000 a game for any appearance, starting or as a sub, that Mr Clean – as he is known there – makes. But only for 10 games; it is not to going to break our bank or make them wealthy.

It is important to remember, as McClean, 22, does, that this was no more than a start, a good cameo in an important game but against weak opposition.

“I know it’s only one game and I have keep working hard and hopefully get a start,” he told the club site. “It’s up to me to keep my work-rate up and hopefully force myself into the manager’s first 11.”

Pete Sixsmith has followed McClean at Reserve level, as he explained in his Soapbox report today on the 2-1 win over Rovers: “I have seen him four times … and he has looked better at each viewing. He looked as effective as Johnson and Summerbee did all those years ago and it is to be hoped that he can maintain this level …”

Monsieur Salut

6 thoughts on “James McClean: Derry City, Sunderland and ‘a language we all understand’”

  1. MON likes wingers so he’s in with a chance.
    But this is the premier league. I know that defenders will be watching footage of McClean before they face him and will be able to suss him out. We’ll see how good he is then. He needs to work on his right foot if its too weak because cutting inside will add unpredictability to his game and unsettle defenders.
    But, i do like his energy and confidence to take people on. Thats what we need.
    If he doesn’t start regular, then he’s a perfect sub to bring on against tired legs.

  2. Agree Hilary about the extra yard already, even though some of our lads didn’t have great games they still looked up for it and kept their heads up; Good luck to James McLean, looks a cracking player!

  3. I totally agree, Bill. They say ‘energy makes energy’ and O’Neill has a passion and intensity of purpose which is wonderful to behold and must be motivational. Bruce alternated between passivity and panic, neither of which was very helpful.

    Even a week of training in the O’Neill regime seemed to have given the team an extra yard. I had long suspected that our collapse at the end of games was a fitness issue as much as one of motivation.

    I still can’t quite believe that Martin is our manager and still feel really excited about it. I don’t know what the Tottenham game will bring but I am sure the team will be well prepared and hopefully gaining some confidence.

  4. Agreed, Jeremy, for any number of reasons. His starting lineup would’ve been different, McLean would never have been on the field and the team would certainly not have come back the way they did. You just have to look at SB’s body language compared with O’Neill’s to see what sort of leadership they’d have had in the week leading up to the game.

  5. I’ve not seen the game yet as I’m just back from travelling. Very much looking forward to seeing JM;’s contribution. I think we’d have lost that game though had Bruce still been at the helm.

  6. A very impressive start from a player who can cross the ball whilst running with it. But then I remember a certain Kevin Kilbane whose first contribution in red and white stripes was to beat his man and send a perfect cross from near the corner flag onto SNQ’s head for a great goal.

    From then on an honest, hard working player was never really able to match up to the expecatation. I really hope McClean can add a new dimension to the squad MON has inherited and go on to be a valuable squad member. He could be one of the missing pieces but let’s be patient and trust the manager to use him wisely.

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