East Derry MP, Gregory Campbell, has ordered Republic of Ireland and West Bromwich Albion footballer, James McClean, to quit English football if he cannot accept the country’s national anthem.
The 26-year-old Creggan Heights born winger caused a stir at the weekend after photographs, which appear to show him standing with his head bowed and looking in a different direction to his team mates during ‘God Save the Queen’, emerged on Twitter and Facebook.
The incident occurred before a friendly between McClean’s new club, West Bromwich Albion and Charlestown Battery in North Carolina in the USA.
“James McClean is a highly paid footballer playing in the English Premiership, so if he’s going to continue behaving like this he needs to reconsider who he’s playing for,” Mr Campbell said.
“He should reconsider who his paymasters are or move elsewhere so there isn’t a problem.
“He needs to keep his head down and play football, but what he shouldn’t do while earning money from the UK is set himself up as a controversial pseudo-political figure, which is what he’s doing.
“If he didn’t want to sing the national anthem I don’t think anybody would have complained, but he should have had the courtesy and respect to simply stand there.
“It is time for his manager to take him in hand and have a word with him. It is only a few months until Remembrance Day and we’ll have a problem with the poppy and McClean again,” added Mr. Campbell.
The player’s action polarised opinion all over the world but fellow Irish sports star and Olympic bronze medallist, Paddy Barnes, has jumped to the Derry man’s defence.
““He’s [McClean] being tortured online for this and other things he stands up for.
“Whether people agree with what he did or not, they need to just accept it and get on with their lives,” declared Barnes.
Some people took to social media to voice their opinions on McClean’s actions with some labelling him “scum” and others going as far as to compare him to an Islamic fundamentalist!
McClean’s actions left West Bromwich Albion manager, Tony Pulis, unhappy and it’s believed he spoke to McClean in the wake of the media attention.
The ‘Journal’ understands that the former Derry City player will not be officially disciplined but has been told by West Brom to modify his stance.
In the past, McClean has refused to wear a poppy during his time with Sunderland and Wigan Athletic and last year he wrote an open letter to then Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, explaining why.
One West Bromwich Albion fan used the incident to come with a new chant for fans to sing about James McClean. To the tune of ‘God Save the Queen, Mike Reed, came up with the following song:
God save our James McClean
Long live our James McClean
God save McClean
Send us victorious
His tricks are glorious
Long to score goals for us
God save McClean!