JAMES McClean realised a dream last Sunday, the 24-years-old hopeful of playing his part in a high profile FA Cup semi-final at Wembley against Arsenal next month.
Having featured prominently for Wigan Athletic over recent months, despite his difficulty in dealing with the club’s rotation policy, the Creggan Heights man believes his form has really picked up in recent weeks and he’s back to what he was experiencing when representing Sunderland in the Premiership.
“What’s missing now for me is scoring a few goals, but I really believe that I’m getting back to my best,” said James last night.
Another shock 1-2 victory over Manchester City, this time at the Etihad Stadium, McClean was disappointed that he didn’t actually start the game given his recent form, but manager, Uwe Rosler, wanted to keep him fresh for tomorrow night’s vital Championship game against Sheffield Wednesday.
“The gaffer told me he wanted to keep me fresh for our match-in-hand against Sheffield Wednesday,” confirmed James.
“And while I’ve certainly had my problems with the rotation system at the club, I’m getting used to it.
“That said, I think I’ve started in six of the last seven or eight games, so I suppose that’s progress from my point of view,” he laughed.
Having agreed to take a significant cut in wages when opting to join Wigan Athletic from Sunderland for a fee understood to be in the region of £1.2 million, McClean is now convinced that he’s back to his best.
And having fathered a delightful baby daughter - who manages to keep him up at night - his efforts to re-establish himself as a top player at the DW Stadium, has been positive.
HIGHS AND LOWS
“There’s no doubt that I’ve experienced the highs and lows since I arrived in England and it hasn’t been easy for me.
However, I believe the sacrifices that I have made have been positive and I’m now back enjoying my football againwhich is important.
“I now have an FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal at Wembley Stadium to look forward to but, more importantly, we are pushing to get into the play-offs, and that has to be the priority.
“These are the challenges that I wanted to face since coming over and, thankfully, I feel that the decisions I made have been justified.
“We have a big squad at Wigan and the ‘gaffer’ opted to rest a few against Manchester City which, I have to say, was disappointing for me as I’ve been playing well.
“But I really was glad to have been brought onto the pitch early in the second half to enjoy what was a fantastic day for the club and our supporters, but the main priority is to get back into the Premiership.”
James has also been very happy with his performances on the international scene, the winger impressive during last week’s slender defeat by Serbia in Dublin.
Obviously well known to his former boss at the Stadium of Light, Martin O’Neill, who actually gave him his bow in the top flight, McClean is very happy that O’Neill was appointed the new Ireland boss.
“He appears to be happy with me and as I’ve started in two of the last three games, I can’t complain.
“It’s all good and, fingers crossed, I will experience more success before the summer.”