Shades of green: Northern Ireland should respect McClean’s Republic of Ireland choice

James McClean by Jake

The people of Northern Ireland, in my own long experience, take unkindly to advice from outside This Wee Country Of Theirs.

It is true that many outsiders have historically fallen into all sorts of traps of assumption. One spectacularly false belief is that bigotry runs in only one direction.

In my efforts to understand a part of the world for which I have always had great affection, even in dark times of tragedy and hatred, I have tried with whatever success to be even-handed and see the issues from different standpoints.

As a reporter, I have covered miscarriages of justice that have left Catholics wrongly imprisoned, but also the appalling acts committed in the name of republicanism. I have made no distinctions of right and wrong when writing about tit-for-tat sectarian bloodshed.

A massacre of Catholic innocents at Greysteel is no more and no less savage and unjust than a massacre of Protestant innocents at Frizzel’s fish and chip shop on the Shankill Road, or of anyone who happens to be around in Dublin or Omagh city centres.

But over the years, I have witnessed more outward sign of basic prejudice on the part of loyalists than nationalists. Some of the reaction to James McClean’s choice of the Republic of Ireland and not Northern Ireland as his international team seems to betray such prejudice. Tribalism does not offer the complete answer, however; it is right to acknowledge the feelings of betrayal that McClean, having benefited from association with the NI set-up as a junior, should now beetle off to play for another country.

But there is also a degree of naivety at play.

Jake says "McClean means brightness - don't you forget it!"

Keith Gillespie, a player who served Northern Ireland well, is quoted by the Belfast Telegraph as being unable to fathom how someone can attempt to justify such a switch by claiming the NI international operation is a bastion of anti-Catholicism.

In almost the same breath, the BelTel presents Gillespie as a man who ”fully understands the vicissitudes of politics on this divided island — and can therefore recognise the right of someone to make a choice that mirrors their aspirations and allegiances”.

There you have it. If you recognise that right, then you must recognise with all the reluctance you wish that McClean was acting correctly, in accordance with conscience, in wanting to pull on the Republic of Ireland shirt. The French feel the same sense of dismay when homegrown players, young men born in France but of Maghrebin or subSaharan family origin, later opt to play for the African countries of their parents. I don’t even like to see players nurtured at the Sunderland Academy go on to make names for themselves at other clubs.

You need to know Northern Ireland but not necessarily to take sides in order to understand the following McClean statement about his feelings of discomfort at playing for the province at junior level:

I think any Catholic would be lying if they said they did feel at home, seeing all those Union Jacks and hearing the songs and the chants. I didn’t feel part of it…

From James's Facebook page

Gillespie is reportedly ”of the firm belief that if you’re born in Northern Ireland you should not have the option of playing for the Republic”. For him, McClean ”had no intention of ever playing for the Northern Ireland senior team and he’s made that clear — but he used the Northern Ireland system to get into a position where he could defect to the Republic”.

You look at some of our greatest and most capped players who are Catholic — people like Pat Jennings, Mal Donaghy, Martin O’Neill and Gerry Armstrong. They are all hugely popular people in Northern Ireland.

I respect Gillespie’s view but consider he is wrong. Even he goes on to admit that sectarianism has not been completely eradicated from Northern Ireland football, arguing that despite there being ”a few idiots”, tremendous work has been done by both the Irish FA and the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs to cut it out.

A ”few idiots”? Maybe; I have little personal knowledge of what goes on at NI internationals. I would not want to run out at Windsor Park to play for such idiots, even if relatively few in number. But then, nor would I expect the son of a victim of IRA terrorism to take much pleasure running out at Celtic Park to the sound of a few of their idiots singing the Provos’ praises.

McClean has made his selection. Disappointment is natural but that selection deserves respect.

* See the full report of Keith Gillespie’s comments at

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sport/football/international/defector-james-mcclean-is-hiding-behind-religion-says-keith-gillespie-16167976.html#ixzz1wuB6wxjY

Monsieur Salut, by Matt
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85 thoughts on “Shades of green: Northern Ireland should respect McClean’s Republic of Ireland choice”

  1. Andrew,

    re. “Just to be clear though, the terms ‘beggars’ and ‘gypsies’, were assigned to the Republic of Ireland team during the Charlton era when they were ‘begging’ any player under the sun to play for them.

    If you want to read more into it, then I guess there is little I can say, but that is the historical context to it.”

    Anyone with a modicum of understanding of ‘community relations’ in the North and between the North and the South knows that these terms would be taken as offensive by Nationalists and not because they related to a recruitment policy for football from 20 years ago. I’m afraid it is time to roll out my favourite D word. Disingenuous or what?

    As highlighed by Bazza above in relation to the Facebook page It is ridiculous to suggest that Nationlaists would not find the ‘moderate fans’ site OWC offensive.

    I would guess (hope)the majority of posters on that site are being let down by poor moderation but by defending what I would think would reasonably described as ‘casual sectianism’ you undermine your case that the Northern Ireland football (fans , authorities) has largely done all that it needs to do when you clearly dont understand ( or are in denial) about the extent of the problem.

  2. One small point Andrew; there is no reason why SAFC supporters should not take an opportunity to watch and even support NI if a match takes place where they happen to be. Many years ago I went down to Windosr Park, one night when over in Belfast, to see NI play Lichtenstein. I hoped for a goal feast which, from fading memory, did not materialise. In fact it was a poor game. But the only point is that despite a sincere difference of opinion on McClean, there is no natural hostility and certainly none from me, as any fair reading of the original item should make evident..

    • Hi Colin,

      I apologise if that looked like the message I was trying to convey.

      A 🙂 after the clip probably should have been added, as I meant it in a fun way.

      Re: McClean, I would have hoped that given the amount of information posted regarding Mr. McClean and his behaviour of late, your point of view may have changed.

      However, I respect your opinion and genuinely hope that he goes on to help Sunderland, and especially Martin O’Neill, do well.

  3. I have been oddly removed from commenting on the OWC Facebook page. I posted nothing abusive at all, but when I pulled a few people on referring to southerners as “gypsies” or “beggars”, and why some blatantly sectarian tinged posts were left up even after a few months, I was suddenly given the heave ho?

    It was good to have the banter while I lasted, but the FB page provided me with a window into a section of the NI fanbase. Some would not tolerate the sectarian posts or the abuse directed at McClean. Others were all for it, and seemed to spend their time getting riled up about it.

    My argument was “why bother, just concentrate on those who want to play for NI”. Half the time, there would be a post about something to do with the RoI, just to get the abusive comments going. But I get the heave ho when I pull someone on something?

    The admin seems to tolerate or not tolerate certain posts depending on his mood. For example, the picture from Holland got posts in support of the flags on display, but mainly posts giving out about the flags. The the admin comes on and gives out about those supporting the flags, even though he posted it up in the first place? Then he goes and removes the photo? I just don’t get it.

    I asked for an explanation to why I was banned, but have not gotten a reply yet, and doubt I will.

    A lot of posts on the FB OWC page had a whiff of superiority about them when it came to commenting on anything to do with the South of Ireland. Basically we were a bunch of “beggars”, “gypsies”, dishonest, and scheming. While most of our politicians are like that, the general tone taken towards anyone or anything RoI related did not sit right with me. I was even of the opinion that McClean was out of order, but now I’m not so sure.

    The way it’s going the team will again end up as a “Protestant team for a Protestant people”, and if that’s what a lot of folk want, then fair enough.

    I wonder if Martin O Neill or Gerry Armstrong had the choice to play for the RoI back in their day, what would they have done?

  4. Andrew,

    In reply to your question about Windsor park I replied.

    “You have me rumbled?” If you dont get that – then NO I have not been.

    What you have failed to address is that it is deeply uncomfortable for a player to turn out for a team when a section of the support is opposed to his racial or religious/national group. The references on the OWC website to ‘beggars’ and ‘gypsies’ when referring to the South suggests that racial/religious intolerance is not confined to the few. I dont consider myself easily offended but I consider the use of these terms offensive. Do you not?

    .
    My remarks about the Union Jack were in tongue-in-cheek but the substanttive point is (many/most) Nationalists (fans/players) are more comfortable playing/supporting the South.

    I will ask you again – do you accept that?

    re. “while I am not naïve to say that no sectarian songs are perhaps sung outside of the ground,”

    Just how do you think Nationalists players and their families would feel listening to that ? While the IFA have done a commendable job – lets not pretend this stuff is not deeply offensive and offputting. This is no different from black players/supporters having to listen to monkey chants by their ‘own’ supporters outside own ground.

    • I have to head out now, so will answer the rest of your post on my return.

      Just to be clear though, the terms ‘beggars’ and ‘gypsies’, were assigned to the Republic of Ireland team during the Charlton era when they were ‘begging’ any player under the sun to play for them.

      If you want to read more into it, then I guess there is little I can say, but that is the historical context to it.

      I guess it is something akin to calling Hartlepool supporters ‘monkey hangers’.

    • Hi Sammy,

      Although I have directed you to read my posts above previously, which I believe would have answered your previous questions, you appear reluctant to do so.

      To aid in the matter, they were

      ‘Note, while I can fully understand that it may be uncomfortable for some to stand to the National Anthem (personally I feel this should be replaced with a Sporting anthem), this is really no different to Protestant Rugby players having to stand to the Soldiers Song when playing for Ireland at the Aviva. Does this then make them feel not at home when representing Ireland?’

      and

      ‘In regards to flying the Union Jack, I can fully understand how it makes some feel uncomfortable and this is no different to the comment I made in regards to some feeling uncomfortable standing for the National Anthem.’

      And

      ‘For the record, it would be my preference that we played under the Ulster Banner or in fact a flag such as an IFA commissioned one that we could all unite under together. Basically I regard myself as Northern Irish and of that I am proud.’

      To go further and answer the next question ‘(many/most) Nationalists (fans/players) are more comfortable playing/supporting the South. I will ask you again – do you accept that?’

      Firstly, this is the first time you have asked me this question. However, now that you have put it to me, I have no hesitation answering it for you.

      Giving that some of my best friends are from a Nationalist background and I am aware of their thoughts, I have no trouble stating that if the Nationalist community had to rank in order who they support, it would be the Republic of Ireland 1, Northern Ireland 2.

      This in no way means that they do not offer their support to the team, have any reluctance in cheering them on or, if given the chance, would represent them.

      To give you an example, following the Republic of Ireland v Northern Ireland game, Niall McGinn stated “It’s always good to feature in games like that. I’m a Republic of Ireland fan and it’s obviously good to play against them. I think the only good thing to come out of tonight is that I got Robbie Keane’s jersey.”

      He then followed this up by stating “The bottom line is that I was born in Northern Ireland and I have chosen to play for them,”

      To bring us back on topic, in contrast, in one of today’s papers McClean is quoted as stating “I’m Irish and I’ve always been Irish and I’ve always supported the Republic of Ireland. I’ve always wanted to play for the Republic of Ireland and I couldn’t be more proud that I am doing that. Just because I grew up in Northern Ireland doesn’t mean I should play for them”

      Personally, given the country we live in and indeed the current FIFA rulings, I have absolutely no issue with any player born in Northern Ireland, who states from the outset that they want to play for the Republic due to their political beliefs or upbringing.

      What I do take issue with is the likes of McClean who one minute is saying things like

      “I thoroughly enjoyed playing for the Under-21s and, therefore, any call-up to the senior squad would be considered an honour”.

      …then the next is complaining about not getting called up to the NI senior squad and then when he is, begins making a lot of unfound accusations not just privately, but in the media, to justify his decision.

      This is really no different to what Keith Gillespie is saying.

      Give the abuse that Gillespie has been getting on Twitter from Republic of Ireland fans for making this point of view, those with open eyes will be more than willing to admit that there is an element of the Republic fans who are no better than those on the Northern Ireland side, following their comments on McClean.

      To follow your new found style of posting, do you accept that?

      In regards to your post

      ‘re. “while I am not naïve to say that no sectarian songs are perhaps sung outside of the ground,”
      Just how do you think Nationalists players and their families would feel listening to that ? While the IFA have done a commendable job – lets not pretend this stuff is not deeply offensive and offputting. This is no different from black players/supporters having to listen to monkey chants by their ‘own’ supporters outside own ground’.

      It is even more disappointing to see you are now resorting to try and put words in my mouth.

      I never once stated that this is what happens; simply that given that I can’t be in every bar, every hotel, every squad or amongst every crowd of fans, I cannot say without doubt that it has not happened.

      As an example, my wife and I previously attended a Wales v Ireland game at the Millennium Stadium. One of the best days out I have ever had, but in the section of the ground we were sitting, I small group of lads decided that they wanted to add the initials ‘IRA’ into the Fields of Athenry when it was being sung.

      Haven’t travelled to the likes of Italy etc to watch Ireland, this is something we have never encountered before and if someone had of told me about it, I would not really have believed it.

      Is it reflective of the entire Ireland Rugby team support and should it stop Protestant rugby players representing Ireland; most certainly not.

      Similarly, can you say hand on heart that at no time do the Republic of Ireland fans sing about the IRA or anything against the Queen?

      Maybe, before answering that, you might want to watch this

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdECNA9S8RU&feature=player_detailpage#t=257s

      Will you be taking this up with the FAI? Should McClean be refusing to play for the Republic of Ireland if he has an issue with sectarianism, or does that only come one way?

      I guess it would also be interesting to know, given that this is the board of an English team, what your thoughts on this are?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QghVWu0d6Oo

      Is this reflective of the ROI fans as a whole?

      I do not want to get into a game of ‘she did, he did’, but merely trying to demonstrate that the actions of some supporters are not reflective of an entire organisation.

  5. Andrew,

    re. Union Jack, bit of exaggeration there for effect – but the fundamental problem is that many/most Nationalists(as the name suggests) view Ireland as one ‘country’ and view Ireland (South) as their team and therefore by defintion do not support those teams in Ireland (North) who play under the (British)Union Jack. McClean it would seem falls into this category and is entitled to state that he does not like playing for a team that has British symbols central to its ethos and support. Do you not agree he has a right to say that?

    Do you also not gree that it must be difficult for a player from McClean’s background to play in a team where (addmittedly a minority of) supporters engage in secatarian behaviour(admittedly mostly at away games) e.g. in Dublin (Feb 2011) which is directed at HIS community – which I would guess happended when Mc Clean was still on Northern Ireland ‘books’.

    I’m not suggesting that McClean spoke wisely or accurately but to try and pretend that the environment that is Northern Irleand football is a more comfortable or fitting one for Northern Ireland Nationalists than the South is a nonsense. I guess most Northern Ireland fans will be denial about this central point – ARE YOU?

    In relation to the OWC site – it is littered with offensive comments (and worse) about McClean (and Ireland south)and in my opinion will only encourage MORE Nationalists to declare for the South.

    If this is what ‘moderate’ Northern Ireland fans think then McClean is well out of it.

    • Dear oh dear Sammy, a rather different tone to your posts than previously encountered.

      You were asked a relatively simple question regarding when was the last time you visited Windsor on an International night.

      Your response to that question and also your response, ‘I’m afraid we are of a similar mind on much of this – I will have to pick a fight with someone else’, demonstrates exactly what we as Northern Ireland supporters are up against.

      Disappointing, but to be honest not really surprising.

      While the answers I provided earlier may not suit your particular agenda, they are there for all to see.

      I find it quite amusing that someone who has, going my your previous response, not attended an International game at Windsor, feels fit to make so many judgments.

      As you have not been at a home game, I sincerely doubt you have ever been to an away game. Therefore, your recent accusations of sectarian behaviour at away games, really does tell a tale of you as a person.

      The events at the Aviva, which you admittedly note was a minority, were an absolute disgrace.

      One thing to bear in mind however, is that from my experience of being there, a good proportion of the crowd that day had never even stepped in Windsor at a home game before.

      It doesn’t make it anymore right, but the problem of hangers on at large profile games is not just an issue that Northern Ireland fans have had to deal with.

      Something I am sure Sunderland fans can relate to when the were involved in the play-off final, which I believe was in the late 90’s.

      I have been traveling to Northern Ireland away games since back in 2004 and while I am not naïve to say that no sectarian songs are perhaps sung outside of the ground, I can categorically say that they have not been within any stadium I have been present to.

      To try and say different is nothing but darn right lies.
      Given that you are concerned about running the risk of making ‘eye contact with a Union Jack in the Northern Irish territories’, it would not be surprising you are offended by some of the comments on OWC.

      I guess if I was to take your attitude I would be offended anytime I heard a rendition of Whiskey in the Jar or Jedward when they are on the tv.

      Thinking about it, regardless of whether I am classed as British, Irish or Northern Irish, I am offended by Jedward lol

  6. Andrew,

    re. jocularity, yes, I had my fill of fights on OWC.

    re. The BT is not the most popular paper over on OWC. There is a general tendency amongst ‘Unioinsts’ (I appreciate this issue is not solely Nats v Unionists) in general to get on the wrong side of the press which is always of course blamed on the press rather than taken as an indication of any weakness in their position.

    re. “so perhaps you can confirm when was the last time you visited Windsor on an International night?”

    You have me rumbled… How do you expect a sensitive Nationalist like meself to run the risk of eye contact with a Union Jack in the Northern Irish territories?

    re. Questions answered. I’m not sure you have dealt with the issue of whether you agree that the strength of the reaction to McClean is explained by the politics of Northern Ireland or whether you agree with the abuse of McClean published on the OWC website?

    • I stopped buying the BT years ago, but that was more to do with the paper in general being poor, opposed to just their front page staff taking every opportunity to put their boot into NI football.

      As an example, after Ulster’s Heineken Cup Final appearance, when talking about the day at Twickenham John Laverty managed to revert back to events at Windsor almost 20 years ago.

      For myself, that is as relevant as an English reporter talking about the England rugby team winning the World Cup back in 2003, but referring to England football fans throwing bananas at John Barnes back in the 80s.

      That is the type of thing we are up against on an almost daily basis.

      Re: you attending a game at Windsor…not sure if you are being serious about ‘running the risk of eye contact with a Union Jack in the Northern Irish territories’ ?

      Re: Questioned answered, I feel I have answered your points in my, admittedly long winded, posts above. Have a read through them again and if you think, I haven’t I’ll certainly clarify anything for you.

      As an aside, looks like some Sunderland fans have no problem supporting Northern Ireland and traveling to watch them…2 mins 50 secs in

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/internationals/7893199.stm

      To give a flavour of what it means to some to be a NI fan, take a look at some of the other clips here

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/northern_ireland/road_to_south_africa/default.stm

  7. Sadly Andrew I’m afraid we are of a similar mind on much of this – I will have to pick a fight with someone else.

    I agree about the IFA (in so far as I understand their position). I think they have behaved well considering the circumstances. Perhaps, on reflection, it might be counter productive if they told fans to move on.

    As I suggested on OWC before being oxtered-oot I think that Gerry Armstrong should be despatched down South to argue the IFA case for a protocol as I suspect that many would agree that a protocol dealing with underage players is fair and reasonable. Times like these best to send someone with Gerry’s record and background to do the job.

    I do however have to take you to tasks with this apple analogy – that suggests an item of little value to use my favoured term of this debate – that is a touch disingenous.

    • I do hope you are saying that in a jocular manner Sammy or else it would be interesting to know why you are looking ‘to pick a fight with someone else’.

      With those words you are sounding like a front page journalist from the Belfast Telegraph. Saying that, you articulate yourself better than most of them. Lol

      Not so sure if Gerry is a good idea to be dispatched down to the Republic; simply because by the time he had told them about his goal in ’82 it would be time to go again haa haa.

      In regards to the apple analogy, I tried to put it in the simplest form, but I believe you know what I am getting at.

      I have answered the majority of your questions (if I have missed any it is unintentional), so perhaps you can confirm when was the last time you visited Windsor on an International night?

  8. Andrew,

    re. “I am sure those not acquainted with our situation will find it as amusing, if not more so, that the FAI are now employing the same practise that they once protested to FIFA about. ”

    As I agreed in the earlier post it is both embarassing and amusing that the FAI find themselves arguing in the opposite direction (I am no great fan of the FAI , like many in the North are not fans of the IFA).

    What will be interesting is if the IFA aceept the CAS ruling and try to agree a protocol with the FAI on the approach to underage players – that is what I think they should do as a supporter both of the right of Northern players to opt for the South but also as someone that does not wish this issue to further damage ‘community’ relations.

    As we know well in Ulster(6/9) some issues have the potential to cause serious outbreaks of sirptatrickmayhem and on that basis the IFA should show leadership and move on – hopefully encouraging the fans to let the boul James McClean preoccupation go.

    re. the Breakaways, it is little bit like calling someone a thief for taking your stuff and when they offer to give it back – telling them you dont want it but were only highlighting the fact that they took it.

    • Hi Sammy,

      The IFA really have no choice but to accept the CAS ruling, although like anything they may opt to explore a different line of argument.

      While I may not be of the agreement of the current legislation, having friends from the Nationalist community I can understand the viewpoint of some players towards representing Northern Ireland.

      I am of similar feeling to you, I think, that a protocol needs to be agreed between the FAI and IFA. In my opinion, that should be along the lines of once a player represents the IFA above U18 level, then the FAI will refuse to select them, even if the player makes the first move.

      Once this is set in stone, a player will know were he stands, fans will know the situation and we can move on from the current situation.

      If not, relations between the two associations and indeed supporters are only going to deteriorate.

      Can you imagine if the FAI continues with their policy and the IFA actually manage to get the rulings changed?

      Some young player, who declares from a youth that he only wants to represent the FAI, could have his dream taken away.

      Re: The IFA showing leadership and moving on, are you seriously saying they have not been dignified in their handling of the situation? When he got this international transfer, their comments were ‘McClean is now eligible to play for the Republic. Its disappointing but we wish him well’.

      Subsequent comments were only made after the unfounded accusations he was making and at that, were only to reiterate that they promoted FFA.

      If anything must NI fans thoughts were that they should have been saying more to highlight the inaccuracies in what McClean was saying.

      Re: the term ‘breakaway’, if something took my stuff and I decided not to take it back when offered, they would still be a thief.

      As a simple example, if you set an apple down and someone took it without asking you, would you really want it back if you had to confront them about the matter?

  9. Andrew,

    It may seem a little amusing to those not acquainted with the diminutive patch of ground that is Northern Ireland that those referring to the ‘breakaways’ in a derogatory fashion are not actually in favour of that splintering process being reversed.

    In relation to the FAI, that is a rather embarassing and amusing quote given the circumstances and presumably the IFA must have had some fun reminding them of that.

    ps The Russians look really good going forward.

    • Hi Sammy,

      You are assuming that I am referring to the FAI as ‘breakaways’ in a ‘derogatory fashion’, but from my point of view I am simply highlighting that they are the one’s who initiated the splitting of the organisation into two.

      I am sure those not acquainted with our situation will find it as amusing, if not more so, that the FAI are now employing the same practise that they once protested to FIFA about.

      Funnily, or as a NI fan not so funny, it is my understanding of the situation at the time that the FAI had the backing of some of the other home associations.

      To view the comment yourself, go to this interesting site http://wayback.archive.org

      I will get you CAS’s views on the quote when I get a chance (my laptop crashed at the weekend and my copy of the decision was lost), but it was quite amusing that another prominent blogger on the subject, Danny Invincible, attempted to justify it by saying that it was simply the views of a clerk.

      Says it all.

      As for the Russians, watching NI over the years we have developed a saying ….’Keep Believing’. 🙂

  10. If you think about it, there already is an All Irish football team. RoI can choose players from 32 counties, it’s just there are a certain amount of them who won’t play for the Roi which is where Northern Ireland comes in.

    If it was as simple as that……….

    Look, every bloody country does it, deal with it. It probably just sticks in the throats of NI fans that McClean etc are good players.

    • If you think about it a little further Bazza, you will know that there previously was an All Ireland Team; that of the IFA.

      It was the FAI who broke away from the IFA to form the breakaways.

      Surprisingly enough, it was actually the FAI who went to FIFA complaining about the IFA selecting players from their jurisdiction back in the 50s.

      Something they actually acknowledged on their website, which funnily enough they changed when the Kearns case was put before CAS.

      Quite a role reversal and something Delaney in Co are quick to forget when they indulge in their current practises.

      • Andrew,

        One of the great ironies of the current situation is that the IFA accuse the FAI of being partionist and those that support ‘the breakeaways’ (Southern Fans)actually want just one Ireland team and those that complain about the ‘the breakeaways’ (Northern Fans) actually prefer two.

        I take it you will be dealing with the questions put to you above at some point?

        p.s. On their website the IFA describe thier role as “Nowadays the IFA looks after the interests of the game in the six northern counties: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone.” – If it wasnt for the use of Derry prefix that sounds like SF-speak.

      • Hi Sammy,

        I certainly will and hopefully it will be apparent to you that I very shy away from alternative points of view.

        Unfortunately work, family life (and a certain football competition lol) sometimes get in the way of providing a response straightaway.

        In relation to your comments above, just to be clear, I am not complaining that there are two teams on the Island of Ireland.

        The simple point being made is that it was the FAI who in fact firstly initiated the splitting of football on this island. Further to that, they were the association who requested that the IFA only selected players from within their own boundaries.

        To quote the FAI website back in 2005

        ‘1950 was also the year that the problem of player playing for both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland was finally solved, with FIFA directing both Associations to only pick players from within their own boundaries.’

        Do you accept these facts?

      • A fantastic photo from Holland last week on the OWC Facebook page which will do wonders to involve all in football in NI. What’s in that photo sums it up……..

  11. Andrew,

    At the risk of sounding patronising, it is refreshing to read the views of someone from the ‘anti’ camp publically debating the McClean issue in such a reasonable manner.

    With reference to my remark that ‘The real reason for the level of abuse’ and your reply to it – you are not one of those actually abusing McClean and my remarks are not directed towards those like your goodself involved in rational debate.

    It is however, disingenuous to suggest that the flying of the union Jack, as the representative flag of those taking part in a sporting event in Northern Ireland does not make(some) Northern Nationalists feel extremely uncomfortable. Surely you must understand that? (That is not to deny the commendable efforts of the IFA in making the game more inclusive)

    It is also disingenuous to suggest “and I would suspect their feelings would be no different to any other member of the FIFA family, if they were told that their neighbour had free reign to select any of the players in their jurisdiction.” Anyone living in Northern Ireland will know well that Southern influence in Northern affairs is both feared and resisted (understandably) by Northern Unionists – and football like other sports is closely associated and linked with a country’s identity. Do you not accept that either?

    The fact that a political agreement between Britain and Ireland (the GFA) was in reality imposed on the Unionist people of Northern Ireland and that agreement is used a justification (and seen by many as a legal basis) for allowing Northern Ireland born players to opt for the South coupled with the historical reality of Northern Ireland means it is not credible to try separating this issue from politics.

    I would not suggest that all or everything that McClean has said was entirely sensible or absolutely accurate and it is fair point to contrast that with the reaction to Gibson departure but McClean’s remarks are moderate when compared with the reaction they caused. He is entitled to express his views without this disgraceful level of abuse – which in Northern Ireland is potentially dangerous.

    Your remarks “Instead, if he carries on his current crusade to try and discredit both the IFA and the International team’s supporters, he is only to cause further division within our fragile society.” Are somewhat of an overstatement but at least recognise the political nature of the environment in which McClean has to negotiate.

    If you have read the offerings on Our Wee Country presumably you, like me would agree that the abuse posted on there is entirely unjustified?

    • The abuse on OWC is unjustified. I’m only speaking of the Facebook page, but it doesn’t seem to be moderated at all?

      • To be fair, I had a quick look at the Facebook page and, while I may well have missed something, the attacks on McClean were mostly predictable (ignore him, despicable etc – I easily imagine some of our lot saying that about a defector to Newcastle). One idiot wanted him to suffer a career-wrecking injury but was smartly put down by someone else.
        As for the site itself, I wandered over there when I realised quite a few hits were coming from that direction. It wouldn’t let me see the threads and has so far ignored my attempts to register. So I cannot say whether the comments reach Andrew Rodgers levels of intelligent, meticulous debate or descend to the depths of neanderthal drivel.

      • Given the nature of Facebook, I would take what is put on the OWC page with a pinch of salt, as I am sure you do in regards to some comments attributed to Sunderland fans on it.

        While I honestly have only been on the page a few times, I would be of the firm opinion that the majority of those posting comments have never been inside Windsor on an International night (or you could count the number of times on one hand) and certainly haven’t made the trip away.

        The main OWC site limits post viewings to non members until they pay a £5 admin fee. I have been a member since 2004 and once my subscription runs out, I revert to that of a guest as well.

        I am not sure of the process for new members getting access, but if you are being genuine let me know and I will contact a member of the admin team.

        Again, if you have a genuine interest in the topic, then why not take a trip to Windsor for our friendly against Finland in August?

        It would be interesting to hear your views, whether good or bad, from your first hand experience.

    • Hi Sammy,

      I certainly don’t find it patronising, as reading comments posted by some on the matter drives me to despair. That goes for both camps though, as you only have to look at some of the comments aimed at Keith Gillespie after relaying his thoughts on the matter, to realise that the abuse is not just a one way street.

      In regards to flying the Union Jack, I can fully understand how it makes some feel uncomfortable and this is no different to the comment I made in regards to some feeling uncomfortable standing for the National Anthem.

      For the record, it would be my preference that we played under the Ulster Banner or in fact a flag such as an IFA commissioned one that we could all unite under together. Basically I regard myself as Northern Irish and of that I am proud.

      I also, however, respect that the current time the UJ is the official flag of the country and therefore that is the reason it is flown.

      This is in the same way I respect that the Tricolour is the official flag of the Republic of Ireland, something which I have no issue standing under it when I go down to Dublin to watch the Ireland Rugby team; which like the Northern Ireland team is represented by teams of both religions.

      While not wanting to digress too much, I find it somewhat interesting that when Ireland takes to the field against New Zealand tomorrow morning, there will be several Ulster players in the squad who may feel no affinity to the symbolisms of the Irish Republic. Yet, there are no signs of the same resentment that the likes of McClean is now displaying in his media comments. Probably a different conversation altogether, but somewhat interesting.

      At the current time we are going through a period of transition. If we want to continue to evolve, then people from all sides of the community need to help break down any perceived barriers.

      This will simply not happen if the likes of McClean continues in his attempts, for whatever reasons, to blacken the name of both the IFA and all the good people who are doing their best to move things forward.

      Do we really want to go down the line of a ‘Protestant team, for Protestant people’?

      I for one simply do not and as a Northern Irish person I am proud that Catholics and Protestants have united as team mates since the IFA was formed.

      Growing up my hero was Pat Jennings (I still have signed picture addressed to myself proudly displayed from the mid 80’s). The likes of Gerry Armstrong and more relevant to this forum, Martin O’Neill, supplied me with memories that I can recall more than some of my relatives birthdays.

      Of late when we have had little to cheer, it is the vision of McGinn taking on defenders at Windsor and McCourt dancing round players as if he was in a ballroom competition that will be memories that I will recall until my last breath.

      The point being, I and the vast majority of others do not care about any players beliefs; as long as when they pull on their Green and White shirts they do their best.

      That is why a lot of us are so incensed by McClean’s comments of late (I cannot speak for all).

      In regards to your question ‘Anyone living in Northern Ireland will know well that Southern influence in Northern affairs is both feared and resisted (understandably) by Northern Unionists – and football like other sports is closely associated and linked with a country’s identity. Do you not accept that either?’

      I would note the following,

      I am of the simple mind that sport and politics do not mix and it is a shame that some try to bring it into it. It is what happens outside of sport in this country that will effectively determine its future; as an example, did Germany become one as a result of the East German players defecting to the West or will there be a united Korea because Northern Korean players start defecting to the South?

      Reading on through your post, just to note, the GFA had little to do with the current situation, apart from bringing it to prominence. What has happened of late is that the FAIs policy has changed and they are now actively targeting young Northern Ireland born Nationalists; a point I hope you will not try to deny.

      I fully agree with you that some of the comments directed towards McClean have been disgraceful; if I am honest I would go a lot further than that, but I do not want to use expletives.

      While not trying to defend the comments made, in some way I can understand the resentment towards him due to the picture he has tried to paint of an organisation that is trying its best to move forward and bring everyone, regardless of religion, with them.

      To put it in context of club football, can you imagine what the feeling would have been toward Sol Campbell if he had made similar comments against Spurs when he moved to Arsenal. Or Figo when he went to Real from Barca (I have memories of a pigs head being thrown at him when he went to take a corner)?

      In the politically sensitive country we live in, McClean’s actions and words are, well to put it mildly, ill-thought and as you put it ‘potentially dangerous’.

      While I am a member of OWC, I post under the username ‘Coachers’, personally I feel the comments are on the whole quite moderate. Yes, like any forum, some go over the top, but the moderators are usually there to bring order to proceedings….a lot more than some sites.

      As a side note, I welcomed your contributions on that forum, as it is sometimes refreshing to hear a differing point of view; albeit often not what you want to hear.

      I have expressed my views on this form of censorship previously, which I am sure you may have noted.

      One question I would ask from you, when was the last time you visited Windsor on an International night?

  12. The level of abuse directed at McClean,on the Our Wee Country(OWC) website which links to here, is totally disproportionate to the allegations against him i.e. that he has exaggerated the extent he felt uncomfortable with Unionist trappings at Northern Ireland underage matches.

    The real reason for the level of abuse has more to do with Northern Ireland supporters not accepting that players born in the North can opt to play for the South and the long term implications of this ruling for their team. It also feeds directly into the ongoing Unionist political fears of the South gradually extending its influence in the North and undermines their sense of Britishness.

    (These points may not be fully appreciated by those not very well acquainted with life in Northern Ireland – to paraphrase Bill Shankly’s famous spake it is not about football it is much more important than that. )

    Northern Ireland fans annoyance is entirely understandable but is no excuse for the near-hysteria over the issue and the posting of comments which are extremely inflammatory.

    Having been suspended from posting on OWC (for what were very moderate remarks) further comment was posted on http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/james-mcclean/#comments

    • ‘The real reason for the level of abuse’, now that’s a bold statement from Sammy and implies that he is fully in tune with the mindset of those who many refer to as the GAWA (Green and White Army).

      I would suggest that this is not the case and although part of his point is valid, it does not cover the full picture and certainly is not reflective of people like myself.

      It goes without saying that most Northern Ireland supporters feel aggrieved that the current FIFA rulings puts the IFA at a clear disadvantage to all other countries competing under their umbrella. That really is not in doubt and I would suspect their feelings would be no different to any other member of the FIFA family, if they were told that their neighbour had free reign to select any of the players in their jurisdiction.

      So why has McClean been subjected to the ‘level of abuse’ he has in recent months? Well, I would put it to Sammy that this has more to do with the sequence of events orchestrated by the player in the run up to his defection (see previous blog) and his subsequent comments in the press.

      To illustrate my point, the most high profile defection has been that of Darron Gibson, who at the time was making a breakthrough into the Man Utd team. While a simple chant of ‘If you hate Darron Gibson clap your hands’ may have sung by the NI crowd, it was hardly anything to get too excited about and certainly nowhere near the level of distain shown towards McClean.

      More recently there is the case of the promising young player Eunan O’Kane, who has represented Northern Ireland over twenty times, ranging from U16 right up to U21. While certainly not as high profile to McClean, after his rise to prominence in the last few months, I would suggest that we should be more upset about losing him giving the amount of time devoted to him throughout his career. Yet, there is hardly a word said about him in the press or any of the fans forums.

      To an extent I would offer some respect to Gibson & O’Kane in that they have made their defection, but he have been dignified about it and got on with trying to play football.

      McClean on the other hand, well you only have to read my previous blog to note that the two of them are like chalk and cheese. This was only too evident if you had viewed his Facebook page before he made it private or indeed some of his comments (and pictures) on twitter.

      As Northern Ireland fans we have went through a remarkable transformation in the last ten years and something I truly did not believe I would see in my lifetime.

      Standing in the North Stand (or any other stand….I’ve been in them all), when you look around the colour is in the main Green and White. The flags in the majority are either the red and white of the Ulster Banner or the green and white of an IFA flag.

      Are there still some Union Jacks on show? The answer to that is certainly yes, but as Northern Ireland is still part of the United Kingdom, is that a surprise to many and is it really something that should cause offence?

      Contrast this to days gone by, when the prevalent colours were that which matched those of the UJ; some might say that you would have been lucky to seen a spec of green in the ground.

      As for the songs, long gone are the sounds of the Billy Boys or the sash echoing down Donegall Road on International evening. Instead you are more likely to hear renditions of Sweet Caroline (with an element of ‘Buckfast wine’ thrown in for good measure) or ‘We’re Not Brazil, We’re Norn Iron’.

      Are there sectarian songs sung? I can whole heartedly say, not in earshot of myself or the other various members of my family and friends (some who themselves are Catholics) who occupy other parts of the ground.

      If we forget for one second about McClean’s defection to the Republic of Ireland, it is the comments made by the player of late, such as the following, which are the most galling to those who are firm believers in moving the Northern Ireland team forward, ensuring it is all inclusive and the ethos of Football For All is maintained.

      ‘I think any Catholic would be lying if they said they did feel at home, seeing all those Union Jacks and hearing the songs and the chants. I didn’t feel part of it…’

      If we take the reference to the Union Jacks in the first instance, is having the flag on display within Windsor Park different to any other ground within the United Kingdom? Is McClean saying that the Stadium of Light is a ‘cold house’ for Catholics simply because their supporters feel it is appropriate to bring it into the ground?

      If he moves onto another club are they likely to read in the press a statement such as….

      ‘I think any Catholic would be lying if they said they did feel at home at the Stadium Light, seeing all those Union Jacks’.

      Do I really need to comment on the songs and chants again? I do not believe so, as I have covered them above.

      As for Catholics not feeling at him playing for Northern Ireland, from listening to the likes of legends like Gerry Armstrong, Jim Magilton, Martin O’Neill, Michael O’Neill, Pat Jennings, or indeed of late, Niall McGinn and Sammy Clinghan (need I go on), it appears his view is more to do with his own political outlook opposed to that of others.

      Note, while I can fully understand that it may be
      uncomfortable for some to stand to the National Anthem (personally I feel this should be replaced with a Sporting anthem), this is really no different to Protestant Rugby players having to stand to the Soldiers Song when playing for Ireland at the Aviva. Does this then make them feel not at home when representing Ireland?

      Personally, I think McClean’s comments of late says more about him as a person than it does in regards to the supporters who turn out to cheer on their International heroes; regardless of their religion or ethnicity.

      One only has to look at the reception McCourt, McGinn and recent captain Clinghan (surely not a wee man from the Falls) get when they step out in a NI shirt to know that they are made to feel at home.

      From a NI supporters perspective, the most disappointing thing about the whole McClean saga, and indeed the FAIs new found policy of targeting NI born players who are beginning to make their name in the game, is that it is beginning to undo the great work and strides in regards to FFA that have been made of late.

      Players like McClean are in a position to unite people from all backgrounds, to make it acceptable to respect each others traditions and to bring about change to make things more inclusive.

      Instead, if he carries on his current crusade to try and discredit both the IFA and the International team’s supporters, he is only to cause further division within our fragile society.

  13. Can you people not see the total difference in playing for a team in England where people fly union flags and English flags etc , than playing for a team in Ireland that has all the Trappings of loyalism / unionism , that sings the anthem of England , that took the old ulster flag and bleached it white FFS ! It beggars belief you lack of understanding of what it actually means to be a Republican / Nationalist …..

    • ha well its the national anthem of great britain and northern ireland to be fair so we have every right to play it!! but to your point of republican or nationalist!! who exactly are you against? im prity sure its british rule!! so yea we do have a point when we say Mclean plays for an english team were british flags are flown!!

      • Exactly ! Its the British anthem used by the English in sport , not by the scots or welsh . A bit pathetic really tbh , bleaching the Ulster flag to look like the cross of st george and then using there anthem aswell .. You are like a little mini me version of the english LOL ! And you are missing the point entirely about flags etc , they are absolutely meaningless and inoffensive to all Nationalists when they are flown in Britain , its only when they are flown in the 6 occupied counties of Ireland that they offend people . A bit like how wound up loyalists get about the tri color in the North , burning it on the 12 etc LOL !

  14. “There is a good little debate in progress at this site on the rights, as I see it, and wrongs, as Northern Ireland Protestants by and large argue, of James McClean choosing to play senior international football for the Republic of Ireland”

    Exactly how do you know the ‘religious make up’ of those Northern Ireland fans questioning McCleans defection and your own personal views with regard to it ?
    Are you assuming that all Northern Ireland fans are ‘Protestant’ ?

    • I think you make a fair point. I would certainly assume that most NI supporters are from the Protestant/loyalist side of the community and would be very interested in a reliable survey to discover whether I am right or wrong in that belief. But I readily accept that there will be Catholics, perhaps even some nationalist-minded Catholics, who support NI, too, and have amended the piece to take account of your comment.

  15. Firstly, I thank Andrew again for his exhaustive and thoroughly sourced contributions which I feel add greatly to the discussion.

    I did not respond late last night beyond acknowledging their value, for the simple reason that I cannot spend my entire life sitting in front of a screen doing unpaid work. And France 2 had a fascinating documentary about the battle of Bir Hakeim.

    Andrew raised the level of criticism to a standard it had, frankly, not reached in earlier posts. My duty is to uphold this site’s reputation for fairness and balance and, in approving his initial contribution (all people posting for the first time are subject to moderation), I believe I discharged that duty.

    As for the content, I am not surprised to see that McClean’s views appear to have ‘developed’. Footballers refrain from telling the whole truth, or sometimes the truth at all, for all sorts of reasons including club discipline, contractual obligaton and even powers of expression. Darren Bent was in the process of (quietly) demanding a transfer at exactly the same time that he was publicly praising SAFC, its fans, the North East etc. Managers have been known to lie about possible transfers, in and out.

    My posting drew on what the BelTel was reporting of Gillespie’s comments and I stand by what I wrote as an honest attempt to deal with the competing views while, yes, expressing my own. “Excellent” said someone at DerryCityChat, ”bollocks” according to someone here.

    I still find it unsurprising that a nationalist, even a constitutional nationalist, might feel discomfort representing NI internationally, whether or not he feels entitled or wishes to say so.

    The Linfield/Glens anecdote was used to illustrate a problem that certainly existed among a proportion, however small, of football supporters in NI. I have used anecdotes unfavourable to England supporters to illustrate the hooligan element among them, too. I am delighted that strides have been made to eradicate these unsavoury features, but it would take a very agile mind to claim it has always been sweetness personified at Wembley (and abroad) or Windsor Park. It is good that we have moved on from darker days, but this is to some extent a different argument from the choice Catholics make between NI and the RoI (however they justify that choice).

  16. A well written and truthful piece Andrew, I see no-one has challenged you on it though. Thats because there’s no wriggling around what you said, no matter how they try to tart it up.

  17. Hi

    After Andrew’s great post above I don’t believe there is much more to say (although I notice you decided not to reply in any great depth to it 😉 – I look forward to your response!). Just one question from me – why do you use an example of a Linfield match in your article? The crowd at these matches are completely different to that of a NI match – would you use say, an example of Inter fans at the San Siro when trying to make a point about Milan?

    Cheers

  18. ‘Pat McCourt was the name on everyone’s lips as they left Windsor Park, stunned by a fine individual performance, capped with two outstanding goals.

    The fans chanted his name for much of the game and the Celtic midfielder got a rapturous reception from all four corners of the ground as he left the pitch named as the sponsor’s man of the match’.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuV77lsVfRs&feature=topics

    Surely this couldn’t be the same Windsor Park? Surely they couldn’t be singing about Pat McCourt, that is Pat McCourt who is ‘proud to be from Derry’, plays for Celtic and is a partner in a Bar on the Falls Road in West Belfast?

  19. Niall McGinn 7th October 2010

    “Anytime I have come on at Windsor Park I have enjoyed it and the fans have been great as well. I just love playing at Windsor Park and I just have to make the most of any opportunity that I might get.”

  20. Hi Colin,

    Some food for thought regarding Mr. McClean. If required I can provide links to any of his quotes.

    I sincerely hope for a great club like Sunderland’s sake that if a top 5 club come calling at some stage, he doesn’t show his true colours again in an attempt to justify a move away.

    ‘The name James McClean is certainly attracting the headlines of late, but at a time when the Derry/Londonderry lad should be rejoicing at being presented with the opportunity of fulfilling most schoolboys’ dreams of playing in a major football championships, it is the front page headlines that are making all the noise.

    Stories of alleged death threats made against one of the highlights of Sunderland F.C.’s mediocre season took centre stage earlier this week, but the latest development has witnessed a number of unprecedented attacks by the player on both the Irish Football Association and their supporters.

    While the comments attributed to McClean that appeared in the redtops this week may be no more than a regurgitation of those made in a frank interview with Dion Fanning of the Irish Independent more than a month ago, it will be of no more comfort to those in power at Windsor Avenue and indeed those members of the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs (AoNISC), whose highly commended work of promoting “football for all” in Northern Ireland resulted in them being awarded the internationally recognised Brussels International Supporters Award in 2006.

    But the question most with a keen interest in the game will be asking is whether there is any truth in McClean’s comments.

    Before looking into his claims that saw headlines such as ‘James McClean has insisted no Catholic could feel at home playing for Northern Ireland’ that greeted us in our morning run to our places of employment, it is worth reminding ourselves of the comments that appear to be the origin of the stories that have Northern Ireland fans shaking their heads in disbelief.

    “I can even remember playing under 21s for Northern Ireland and even standing for the national anthems . . . You’re looking around Windsor Park as a Catholic and seeing all the Union Jacks and listening to the songs the fans sing and I just didn’t feel at home at all. Even in the squads I felt like a bit of an outsider. There weren’t too many Catholics, it just didn’t feel right.”

    McClean, in his comments above, actively remembers representing the U21’s for Northern Ireland; a quick check through the history books shows that it was as far back as 2008 when he pulled on the Green and White shirt of Northern Ireland. Alongside the likes of current senior Internationals Ryan McGivern and Andrew Little, it was a victorious U20’s side that lifted the Milk Cup, with McClean scoring in the opening 3-1 victory against the USA.

    Moving on with his Northern Ireland career, the then Derry City wing master went onto represent his original International team a total of seven times at U21 level. Indeed, it was a jovial McClean who was pictured in his Northern Ireland shirt when facing Germany in 2008; a shirt that ‘now hangs proudly’ on the walls of the clubhouse at Oakland Park, the home of one of his former clubs, Trojans Youth & Community Group in the Creggan.

    At this stage their was little indication to the wider public of the issues that McClean has now viewed, although with hindsight comments posted on his Facebook Account at the time by his friends, who noticed that he refused to raise his head during the playing the National Anthem, indicated that this may not have been the case. These comments included ‘Spot the only 2 heads down ha’, ‘James McClean Legendary ryt there lol’ and ‘its alryt jamesy we no ur jst ashamed to play for northen ireland’.

    So what were those songs that McClean heard and how many Union Jacks, one would guess the same Union Jacks that are flown at the Stadium of Light each week, did he see when playing for the Under 21’s at Windsor?

    Anyone who has attended an U21 game in recent years, with the exception of the Milk Cup, will note that the attendances are relatively poor and mostly made up of parents and friends of the players. If there were inappropriate songs or flags being flown, then surely would we not have heard of it well in advance of the four year time lag that his taken for his claims to rise to the surface?

    Perhaps a question that James himself will be prepared to answer?

    Interestingly McClean has never actually represented Northern Ireland at Windsor Park. Within his seven appearances for the U21s, one was at a neutral ground, three were played away and three were at home; the location of the three home games being Ballymena Showgrounds, Shamrock Park and The Oval.

    Following McClean’s career path, one must note that the undoubted talent the player possesses was not just recognised overnight and back in 2009, arguably through showcasing his talent on the International stage, it was the legendary Chris Sutton who gained his signature for Lincoln City. This move however did not work out, reportedly through homesickness, and it was back to the League of Ireland to ply his trade.

    Often on return to their homeland after a short spell away players have been known to fade into obscurity, however to his credit McClean continued to impress and those with knowledge of his game were shocked when the youngster was not selected for the Northern Ireland Senior Squad to compete in the infamous Carling Cup.

    McClean’s despair was evident at this stage, when in the Derry Journal he noted “I honestly felt that not just me, but a few of the players at Derry City would have been good enough to be called into the squad after so many senior players had dropped out”.

    It is a further quote within the same article that some would see to cast dispersions in McClean’s current view of the Northern Ireland. The quote in question being

    “International recognition is very important to most players. I thoroughly enjoyed playing for the Under-21s and, therefore, any call-up to the senior squad would be considered an honour”.

    So surely a call-up to the Senior Squad was what he was after to ease the disappointment of not being considered for the Carling Cup?

    Well, that call came on the 26th July 2012 when McClean was invited to join the senior squad for the Euro Qualifier against the Faroe Islands.

    While various reports in the media attributed to McClean suggest he turned down the invitation, the following video appears to suggest differently, http://www.extratime.ie/newsdesk/articles/6272/
    , and indeed the player is heard to state ‘I am delighted to be called into the squad’.

    Further to that, McClean’s posted on his Facebook account at the time about the call up with a ‘smiley face’, which was followed by numerous offers of congratulations from his friends.

    (A interview was available at the time on http://m.soundcloud.com/#/drive105/d…interview-with
    (now not available), where McClean stated that he was meeting up with the squad on the Monday night and was looking forward to making his debut).

    As the game approached, more and more speculation followed regarding McClean’s domestic future, with Wigan joining the crowd of admirers following the breakdown of a move to Peterborough.

    Speculation reached fever pitch on the 6th August 2011 when it was reported that the player was to sign for Sunderland subject to a medical, but the shock news from a Northern Ireland perspective came a day later when it was announced that McClean had withdrawn from the squad.

    When questioned about his decision via his Facebook account amidst speculation that he had been ‘reminded’ that his loyalties should lie with a 32-county Ireland, he went onto post

    “Av made a decision for me personally i think would benefit me and am not gna explain myself to anyone for it. Its my decision end off case closed”

    Within the same media McClean is quoted as stating “Same way ni over looked me for the past two years all of a sudden am gettin a move am in the squad”; a bizarre statement considering he had been involved in Northern Ireland squads since 2008 and was called up to the Senior squad before his Sunderland move materialised.

    McClean’s dream move came on the 9th August when he put pen to paper and signed a three year deal for Sunderland, beating off interest from the likes of Wigan Athletic, Peterborough United and Reading.

    The withdrawal from the Northern Ireland squad fuelled further speculation that the Republic of Ireland were now interested in McClean and further quotes in the media by the player appeared to suggest that he was open to their approaches.

    Moving forward a few months McClean made his debut under Martin O’Neill for Sunderland and soon to follow it was another O’Neill, this time Michael, who approached the winger to consider his options and return to the Northern Ireland setup.

    McClean rejected the offer stating: ‘If I don’t get called up by Ireland, I’ll live with that.’ which was subsequently followed by a tweet ‘Following my dream, mine was never going to change.’

    Thoughts on ‘GAWA’ forums appear to suggest that the majority were of the view that if it was his dream to play for the Republic of Ireland, then why did McClean choose to represent Northern Ireland previously and take away the dream of players who would cherish wearing the jersey that the likes of Armstrong, Best, Jennings, O’Neill and Whiteside (to name a few) wore with pride; a point hard to argue against.

    The 6th February saw the powers to be at Windsor Avenue resigned to losing McClean, with an IFA source noting “…McClean is now eligible to play for the Republic. Its disappointing but we wish him well.”

    One would have though that would have brought to the end the relationship between McClean and the Northern Ireland Supporters, but judging by the latest series of events that appears to not be the case.

    Moving back to McClean’s original comments in the Irish Independent regarding his issues with the National Anthem and the Union Jack, it is perhaps worth noting that McClean previously had stressed in January 2012 that politics were of no concern of his, with a notable quote being

    “There’s been talk about politics, but that doesn’t interest me in the slightest. I’m a footballer and I want to be the best I can be and play at the highest possible level. I’m not interested in politics,”

    Such a quote is in stark contrast to McClean’s Facebook profile which stated that his political views were that of ‘Sinn Fein’, while recently his profile picture on twitter was showing him holding a monument of ‘Free Derry Corner’.

    Indeed, some would argue that McClean’s reaction to Match of the Day 2 presenter Colin Murray’s reference to him as being Northern Irish while offering praise, which resulted in the Derry man tweeting ‘Colin Murray get it right will you its #Irish’ shows a different side to the character that he attempts to portray within his interviews.

    While McClean’s past interviews and current recollections of the past seem to be somewhat, how should I put it, bizarre, the most strange is that of ‘there weren’t too many Catholics, it just didn’t feel right’.

    One thing for sure is, as football supporters the last thing we want to do is get into dissecting each International Squad, as McClean appears to have done, to determine religious makeup.

    In contrast to McClean’s approach, and without wanting to single out individual players, the likes of Niall McGinn and Andrew Little (of Glasgow Celtic and Rangers respectively) have given their backing to the IFA and their Football For All campaign by becoming Ambassador’s of the project, with the former stating that ‘I was born in Northern Ireland and I chose to play for Northern Ireland so I will always give 100% no matter what’

    More telling is the following statement by current Celtic boss, Neil Lennon, at an IFA Football Awards Ceremony

    “People like Stewart [McAfee of the AoNISC] are the Unsung Heroes who have been brave enough to challenge sectarianism and who have actively created a more fun, safe and family orientated atmosphere at international games. Fans like Stewart have made the atmosphere at Northern Ireland football games in recent years the envy of Fans across not only Europe but World Football. From a personal point of view I would like to thank them for their efforts.”

    I guess the only one who can guide us through the puzzle of confusion that James McClean has created is the man himself’.

    • Suddenly, someone produces rational argument as opposed to lazy one-liners and kneejerk putdowns. M Salut salutes Andrew for that and is now calling it a night since there’s something interesting on French telly. Any further comments from new posters may be held for moderation and that, I am afraid, means held until the morning.

  21. You are basing Northern Ireland’s fans on a cluster of people watching Irish league? Wise up

  22. the irony of a Sunderland fan writing this is incredible given the racist scum that make up an element of the SAFC support.

    thhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/feb/06/sunderland-fan-guilty-racist-tweetsat

    By the way Martin Oneill, a catholicwho played for NI during the troubles, was never subjected to anything but respect and admiration from the Windsor Park faithful. Does Colin Randall practice looking stupid?

    • Can’t really be bothered, Brian, but was that one racist in the Guardian link, or more than one? Our attendances are up towards 40,000 on average. That said, and I appreciate you are unaccustomed to this site, I have written often about the scourge of racism in football (and beyond football, which isn’t really that important) and have made clear my contempt for any SAFC fans who abuse others on grounds of colour or ethnic origin.
      Otherwise, you make one point which was properly covered in the original article. And it is ‘practise’ as a verb.

  23. “Was McClean acting correctly when he attended the Northern Irish youth camps and training programmes that made him the player he is.”

    What claptrap. NI did not make McClean the player he is. He took part in a few games for the underage set up. Most do so to represent their schools nothing more. His development was down to Trojans and then Derry City. He wasn’t good enough whilst playing at the Brandywell, then suddenly once he makes a move to England – hey presto!!

    If you want any chance of Derry men to represent NI at senior level, change the anthem, have a new Stadium that represents all, and take a leaf out of Ulster rugby.

    • well obviously he wasnt good enough to play…..but when your a English prem player of course your good enough!! for any international team!! why would we look at him at derry city? and remembering he does have a friendly under his belt for the Team he now doesnt want to play for!! Take a leaf from the Ulster rugby? that completely contradicts what your saying!! remember its the ulster men who stand proud at the ALL Ireland game and listen to the soldier song….have you ever heard an Ulster player refuse to play for Ireland because of it? nope didnt think so….oww and remind me were nail mcginn and paddy mccourt came from?

    • He was part of the NI development programme who were good enough to put their scarce resourses into his carear development, that is a fact and what ever else you belive in is up to you I just believe the aspect of loyalty to those who assist you should be considered ahead of which church you attend.

  24. Nice to see a Geordie telling us where we’re all going wrong in Northern Ireland.

    Priceless.

    • Sorry. Not a Geordie (though a few Geordies do support SAFC). And now, having done my best to present both sides of this particular argument, to deal with your more reasoned points. Oh, there were none! What a surprise.

      • Oh the irony. You’re clearly not bright enough to see what I was alluding to.

        Why am I not surprised.

      • It wasn’t a bad shot at irony and was seen as such. My answer took account of two of the most common mistakes people from outside the North East make about its two biggest cities

        1 That all their inhabitants are called Geordies (though Mackem, despite its historical origins, is a term of relatively recent use)

        2 That all Geordies support NUFC and none Sunderland

        … not, of course, that I’d want to spoil your fun, Kyle.

  25. The only thing stopping James McLean playing for Northern Ireland is his OWN sectarian opinion. Some of the best players to play for Northern Ireland are Catholics, Pat Jennings, Mal Donaghey, Gerry Armstrong and the Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill who I hear has given McLean a dressing down regarding his ill advised comments about Northern Ireland and respecting the shirt he once wore in the youth team set up when nobody but Northern Ireland were interested in him. Fine, play for whoever you want James, but don’t take up a place that some other kid would gladly accept and help his development and don’t mouth about the country that gave you your break at international football and show some respect.

    • It is not realistic to suggest that when he was a young lad in NI, he should have refused whatever services were avaiable to him as a resident of that country. That acceptance doesn’t deny him the right to an opinion or a conscience, and I am not entirely sure what else would have been available to him, ie from across the border, had he or his family declined. I agree that it would be wonderful if everyone got on famously but the divisions in NI, Good Friday Agreement or not, go some way beyond minor differences of opinion. More’s the pity.

      • Bollocks. If he had any integrity or his ‘nationalist principles’ were that solid, he’d have refused any call-up to the Northern Ireland underage squads from day 1.
        The boy is a user who has bitten the hand that fed him.

      • i think we have a bitter mackem on here haha!!!! true dan and at senior level!! but hey he always wanted to play for republic he stated…..but still wore the shirt of the country of his birth!!

  26. Northern Irish nationalists have always come to England for work and most of them, with the NI context removed, get on with it quite happily. You see Union flags, irish tricolours and, I seem to recall, the Dutch flag among others at Sunderland games

    • but then why cant he turn out for the NI team? obviously his excuse was not correct then? either he finds the flag offensive or doesnt? he obviously cant decide!!

      • Because when he turns out for the world’s greatest football club, far from NI in a country that broadly couldn’t care less about whatever he left behind (historically or today), he is not playing ”for” the Union flag or any of the other flags that might be on display. You are only pretending not to see the distinction.

      • i will assume your refering to sunderland and by the way far from the worlds best!! but yea….I like the way you said that……The history of NIs trouble can never be erased and never forgotten, some in a different way than others!! the reason for the troubles is against british rule….not so must the protestant and catholic which it has turned into!! Its the british flag that Mclean does not want to play under is correct then why is he representing a british club if he hates the british flag so much??? if i hated a country that i didnt want to be ruled by then i would go work there? it dont add up!! and back to one of my previous statements!! i think you should experience a Northern Ireland game and see for yourself!! there is no secterianism in the stands!! we have catholics who happly put on the green shirt of Norn Iron and are proud to play for there country of birth!! they dont hold grudges for a past we cannot change but I guess some people still do (McLean).

      • were talking about NI fans not thugs!! so they get death threats? does this mean its from NI fans? get a life

      • Is he not happy to accept his pay in Pounds Stirling with the Queens head on it?? Silly me, he doesnt use cash, he just uses a Visa card…..

  27. Mate lets get back to the topic in question!! Mclean and his comments!! remember what he stated….i quote ‘how can any catholic feel at home in the Northern Irealand team with all the British and Ulster flags flying’ Now maybe not word perfect but to that effect!! Tell me were he practices his trade these days? surely he must be offended by taking the Queens shilling and playing in england at the stadium of light were british flags are flown every game?

  28. are you serious? So your saying because McLean is catholic he has a choice of two countries? and rather than pick his country of birth he chose to play for a country that he has nothing to do with? ok if a Arab born in Iraq and is a christian he can choose to play for say….England? that is totally out of order…religon should not dictate a sport…..I go to all Northern Ireland home games and I have yet to hear any secterian chants or slander!! I have even seen sammy cligan a guy from the falls road cross himself in the centre circle before a game and not a word was said!! It is obviously McLean who has the problem and cant let a past that he is to young to remember to be put behind him. Alot of people have moved on from all this stupid stuff and now living there lives without it but some people cant let it go thats true!! and McLean is one of them…..and this goes for the small minority on both sides!! but FIFA have given the FAI the advantage of being able to pick players from two countries without question….is that fair? one thinks not

    • Oddly enough, young footballers in England and France have been making similar choices for years without causing such polemic (except from the unthinking right). Yes people should move on from past misery and anger but it is simply unrealistic to expect people who, rightly or wrongly, believe fervently in Irish nationalism to embrace national representation for what they consider the Six Counties/N of Ireland etc. If Ulster suddenly became part of the RoI, I’ll bet there’d be plenty of Protestant lads who’d opt to play for England or, more likely for at least two reasons, Scotland

      • I think your geographically challenged. Ulster is a provience not a country!! Northern Ireland is the country..well the UK really but we wont get into all that stupid stuff!! Yes i agree it has and still does go on all over..look at Camp..hes english but plays for the green and white army!! But did we poach him or did he offer his services to us? and would he ever make it on the England team? i dont think so!! The point being his choice wasnt because of religion its because he knows he has no chance of getting an England shirt on his back so he opted for us!! Now McLean could easily be a regular along with gibson and co in the NI set up!! WE have Ulster players who turn out for an all ireland rugby team everytime they play without question and stand for the soldier song!! but yea your probably another English man who has never been to N. Ireland or at a game but still likes to comment!! But it still boils down to religion!! true N.I fans dont care were your from or what religion!! you put that shirt on your back and we support you!! If you feel the need to play for another country then do so but at the end of the day were the brave ones because we will still be here supporting the GAWA with players who want to be there!!

      • David: you say I am geographically challenged because I make reference to Ulster. I know precisely what Ulster is but you know equally well that it is used politically, too, to denote NI. And this debate has undeniable political undertones. To argue otherwise would be disingenuous. Its use is a reasonable device to avoid repetition

        As for the suggestion that I’m another Englishman who has never been to Northern Ireland. Oh dear. Please re-read the original piece. I have also been, on many occasions, to the three counties of the RoI that form part of the ancient province.

    • First of all NI is not a country and secondly McLean has made the choice to represent Ireland , and as an ” Irishman ” he has every right to do so .. You are right as far as religion goes , it should not have anything to do with sport . Its an issue of identity and not religion imo , some people need to remember that half the people born in the 6 counties of ulster are Irish and not British . Just take it on the chin ffs , an All Ireland football team is the future of football in Ireland because lets face it the North are in a jocker and will be for the foreseeable future . Get with the program and support Ireland …..

      • so in the same breath you should be saying that anyone with a british passport born in scotland with no family connections to england should be able to play for england NI or Wales? wise up!! He was born in Norn Iron derry or londonderry still Norn Iron!!

        The EU should have left yas to it….be a 3rd world country in no time!!

      • Niall, I think you’ll find that Northern Ireland is a country and has been since partition and also the people of the Republic Of Ireland acknowledge its existence when they voted to accept the Good Friday Agreement and removed their claim of it from their constitution. Check your history mate, or do you just choose to forget about that bit. it is also recognised as a country by the European Parliament, NATO, FIFA, UEFA, need i go on?? It’s not Narnia

        The point is James McLean can play for whoever he likes, but why is Northern Ireland good enough for him in the youth team set up where he selfishly took a place that some other kid would give his right arm for to develop him as a player. The real reason why he doesnt want to play for Northern Ireland is that “HE” is the one with the sectarian attitude, the evidence of which is in the well written reply above. Like Martin O’Neill told him, show some respect for the green shirt of Northern Ireland that he once wore.

  29. Ahhh damn!!! I read this yesterday online somewhere else. Schoolboy error!! Stand by the rest

  30. Was McClean acting correctly when he attended the Northern Irish youth camps and training programmes that made him the player he is. I would not deny his right to play for the nation of his heart but he does not have the moral high ground. He denied some other youngster an opportunity to develop and play for NI when he had no intention of doing so. Never bite the hand that feeds you, or walk away from the nation that made you who you are.He could have made a difference to the Land of his birth if he had the courage to try.

  31. The only thing Keith Gillespie should be using mass media as communication for is to advise youngsters how to avoid heavy gambling and alcohol addiction, resulting in you disappearing off the face of the top flight footballing earth by your mid-twenties.

    Even Alan Shearer, old Mary Poppins himseflf, managed to get wound up enough by this fella to inflict physical damage on him.

    Convenient how he omitted Neil Lennon from the list. As much as I dislike Lennon, he was driven from International football due to sectarian themed abuse. I find it hard to believe Lennon and O’Neill wouldn’t have played for the southern version of Ireland if the rules allowing you to do so were in place at the time.

    • In fairness, the full Belfast Telegraph article did cover Lennon, including a Gillespie quote on the affair.

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