Forget Suarez and Bale. The real transfer buzz is, as it has been all close season, at Sunderland. After the assorted arrivals comes another departure, one that divides Sunderland supporters along the lines suggested in the headline.
Pete Sixsmith and Monsieur Salut decided to have their say on McClean’s descent into the Championship where he will be trying to help Wigan Athletic bounce back to the Premier in one go.
The timing of Sixer’s piece may depend on when he can tear himself away from Test cricket (stop press: he did and it’s at https://safc.blog/2013/08/mcclean-break-2-maybe-he-should-try-his-luck-with-wigan-warriors/). My own has already appeared at my espnfc.com pages and can be seen in full at http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/1884?cc=5739
Here are extracts:
There could have been no more fitting end to James McClean’s start-stop career at Sunderland than to have his departure more or less confirmed in a tweet from the man himself. Official word lagged far behind.
“Delighted to announce a signed with wigan!” it read without obvious desire on the Irish winger’s part to gain approval from the Queen’s English Society. When the official announcement finally arrived, Sunderland said McClean had joined the newly relegated Championship side for an undisclosed fee, a phrase that should have no place in football. It was actually in the region of 1.5 million-2 million pounds if reports are to be believed.
… The almost inescapable conclusion to draw from his 20 months as a member of the Sunderland first-team squad is that for most of that period, he made more impact on Twitter than on the field.
McClean seemed a revelation when, having been denied a chance by Steve Bruce to step up from the reserves to improve a bad team, he made a massive impression as a late substitute on Martin O’Neill’s managerial debut at the Stadium of Light … He duly proceeded to worry the defences of other opponents in the purple patch that gave O’Neill the points he needed to avoid relegation, which seemed the likely fate for Bruce’s team after an abysmal start to the season.
Then, as if everyone had studied his style and decided it wasn’t unplayable after all, McClean ceased to be a threat.
… He did manage to cause the wrong kind of excitement in other ways.
I defended him in the row over wearing a shirt adorned with a poppy because I do not find it difficult to understand the political and social realities of his native Derry/Londonderry, which even Northern Ireland natives call Stroke City. For similar reasons, I respected his preference for playing for the Republic of Ireland and not Northern Ireland.
But even I eventually questioned his shoot-from-the-hip belligerence.
By then, his attitude had alienated many Sunderland supporters; the North East is traditionally a working-class region that produces recruits for the armed forces. If McClean has a right to the freedom to speak his mind for which past British servicemen have fought (in theory at least), there is a competing freedom: the right to find his utterances unacceptable.
… It is perhaps asking too much that McClean will never again offer us his controversial view of the world. But with the Sunderland supporters’ reaction ranging from sorrow at unfulfilled promise to a straightforward “good riddance”, his new manager Owen Coyle may wish to bear in mind the important part he must play, too, in ensuring the “new challenge” does not end in tears.
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