|Feature Article - Rise of James McLean|
|Written by Gerry Lynch|
|Monday, 16 January 2012 22:36|
James McClean: The Story So Far.
When the Republic of Ireland qualified for the European Championships last November, one of the last people that most would have expected to be on the plane to Poland is Sunderland's winger James McClean.
The Derry born winger declared for the Republic of Ireland just a few weeks prior to the Republic of Ireland's qualification. Being a catholic from Derry, it is not unusual that James has decided to play for the Republic. The 22 year old has been brilliant for the Black Cats since exploding onto the scene last December when he made his first appearance for Sunderland as a second half substitute against Blackburn. He was given his chance by newly appointed Sunderland manager and fellow Derry-man, Martin O Neill. James has repaid his manager by putting in some solid performances since O Neill has taken over on Wearside.
But James' rise to prominence began back in 2010 when he played for Derry City in the Airtricity League of Ireland first division. He helped Derry to promotion and scored ten goals in thirty games during the 2010 campaign. I first saw James play in April 2011 when I travelled up to Derry to see them face St Patrick's Athletic in the Airtricity league premier division. The League of Ireland campaign begins in March and ends in October so it was relatively early in the season and both sides had made a decent start to the league season. The week beforehand, James scored two fantastic goals against Galway United so the fans knew what he was capable of.
James was excellent for Derry that night as he terrorised defenders and put the ball into the danger areas. The deadlock was broken in the second half when Derry attacked down the right hand side and put the ball into the box. The St Patrick's defence failed to clear the ball and James McClean was on hand to score from close range.
St Patrick's equalised late on from the penalty spot and the game ended 1-1. St Patrick's were lucky to take a point from the game. But it was young James McClean who ran the show and established himself as one to watch. His performances for Derry City caught the eye of some English clubs.
In the summer of 2011, Derry City boss Stephen Kenny (now managing Shamrock Rovers) was aware of the interest that James was attracting. He wanted to keep hold of McClean until October. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Kenny said "to lose our best player would be a massive blow". However, Kenny didn't want to stand in McClean's way. He said that James is an "outstanding player, a brilliant person, has a tremendous attitude and deserves an oppurtunity". Derry fans were sad to see McClean leave but wished him all the best as he left for Sunderland in August 2011 for £350 000. James scored seven goals in sixteen games for Derry City before his move to Sunderland, a goal rate of just under one goal every other game. Impressive for a left midfielder.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 22 January 2012 21:29|