James McClean has written to West Bromwich Albion fans to explain to them why he will not be wearing a remembrance poppy in the lead up to Remembrance Sunday on November 8.
In an interview published in the match day programme for the West Bromwich Albion vs. Sunderland game at the weekend, the 26 years-old Derry born footballer acknowledged that he will always be a divisive figure.
“My attitude is live and let live, honestly, and I don’t think we should have ideas forced on us just as I don’t want to force my ideas on anybody else,” said McClean in the interview.
“The Albion fans have been great to me and I just want to put it out in black and white why I do what I do and give my side of the story.
“I have the greatest respect for their culture and it’s been nice that they seem to have the same for mine. I hope that by saying this, people will realise that I mean no offence, no disrespect to anyone. But I have to stand by my principles.”
“People say I am being disrespectful but don’t ask why I choose not to wear it.If the poppy was simply about World War One and Two victims alone, I’d wear it without a problem.”
“I would wear it everyday of the year if that was the thing but it doesn’t, it stands for all the conflicts that Britain has been involved in. Because of the history where I come from in Derry, I cannot wear something that represents that.”
Since joining Sunderland from Derry City in 2011, McClean has courted controversy over his refusal to wear a remembrance poppy.
The Republic of Ireland winger also found himself in hot water after he did not face in the same direction as his West Bromwich Albion team-mates during the English national anthem at a pre-season friendly in the USA during the summer.
Meanwhile, McClean has avoided punishment from the English F.A. after he celebrated West Bromwich Albion’s 1-0 victory over Sunderland in front of Black Cats fans at the weekend.
The English F.A. have however officially spoken to McClean about his behaviour.