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 …”