SUNDERLAND BOSS PRAISES MCCLEAN

Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni should include Creggan Heights man James McClean in his squad for this summer’s European Championships, claims Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill.

McClean, (22), who scored for Sunderland against Stoke City yesterday afternoon, has been in scintillating form and has played a pivotal part in Sunderland’s good fortunes since former Northern Ireland international O’Neill replaced Steve Bruce before Christmas.

“I think that he [James McClean] is more than capable of going to the Euros,” said O’Neill.

“I don’t know Giovanni Trapattoni and I haven’t spoken to him, but I’ve great regard for what he has done in his career.

“He will have players that he wants to stay loyal to, those who have got him there through thick and thin, so somebody fresh wanting to get in might be difficult.

“But could he [McClean] go there on merit? Absolutely, I see no reason why not.”

O’Neill, a former St. Columb’s College pupil, went on to say that Republic of Ireland coaches had been to watch the former Derry City player when Sunderland took on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge recently.

“I think that the Ireland coaches have been to watch him,” said O’Neill.

“They came to the Chelsea game and they couldn’t fail to be impressed by him.

“Off the pitch, he’s a very quiet lad, and his family are very appreciative of what has happened to him.

“It’s great that we can find a player that does not cost us millions of pounds.”

Former Sean Dolan’s GAC player, McClean, joined Sunderland from Derry City last summer for a fee reported to be in the region of £350,000.

McClean made his debut in Sunderland’s 2-1 win over Blackburn in December last year. The exciting winger went on to make his full debut for the Black Cats on New Years Day against Manchester City. He scored his first goal for the club when O’Neill led the team to a 4-1 victory over Wigan Athletic.

McClean then went on to net his second goal for the English Premiership team when he scored against Peterborough United in the third round of the F.A. Cup.

O’Neill went on to say that McClean’s arrival has been with such promise and skill that several clubs claim that they were interested in signing the player before he joined the Black Cats.

“What is interesting is the number of clubs we’ve been to this season who said they were close to signing him,” said O’Neill.

“Well, they didn’t get him, we got him and we’re really pleased we did.”

Meanwhile, former Derry City striker Eamon Zayed scored a hat-trick for Iranian Pro League side Persepolis F.C. on Thursday.

Zayed has been on the fringes of the first team since signing a six month deal before Christmas but he made himself an instant hero with the locals when, in front of 90,000 spectators, he came off the bench to score a hat-trick against archrivals Esteghlal.

“I don’t believe this has happened,” said Zayed after the game. To score my first goals for the club and in the manner which I did, is just amazing. It was a dream debut. I scored in the 86th, 88th and 92nd minute to give my team a 3-2 win. It was Roy of the Rovers stuff!”