JAMES McClean’s surprise call-up yesterday for the Republic of Ireland’s friendly fixture against the Czech Republic tomorrow week in the Aviva Stadium, will now see three Derry men in the squad.
The Sunderland winger joins Everton pair, Darron Gibson and Shane Duffy in Giovanni Trapattoni’s panel as they attempt to battle for places for this June’s European Championships.
And former Republic captain, Mick Martin, who is Trapattoni’s scout in the North-East of England believes the ex-Derry City winger is a risk worth taking.
“I believe James has got what good wide players have, he wants the ball. He can cross the ball, he’s got an eye for a goal and he’s very fit and agile,” he said.
“But I can understand why Giovanni Trapattoni spoke about him not being included last week because, he as manager must be loyal. That said, I’m delighted James has been given the opportunity. He’ll be an asset to us, especially for the World Cup qualifiers,” added Martin.
“I mentioned his name to Marco Tardelli a couple of weeks ago. I was chatting about James and he said they were fully aware of him. He said Trapattoni was thinking about him further down the line. James doesn’t seem to have any fear. He wants the ball and that’s an admission of confidence. Those who don’t want the ball hide behind the full-back. He is strong, quick and has eye for goal.
“He reminds me of Chris Waddle. I played with him at Newcastle. He was like that, gangly, tall, great skills. He’s raw but you lose the rawness eventually, the novicey thing goes away and he’s an unknown becoming a known.”
When questioned on Martin O’Neill’s influence, the former international said: “I watched Sunderland Reserves in the company of Martin O’Neill and he said the boy McClean can play. He’s a Derry boy which helps. He’s done well for Martin and I think Martin has done well for him.
Martin did agree that McClean could emerge a possible “wild card” for this summer’s tournament.
“I think he could be, I don’t see any reason why not. With talent like that when you’re ready, you’re ready.
“James doesn’t have a lot of tricks, he is more like the winger who knocks it past full-backs into space and then runs them.”
Meanwhile, another Derry man, Shane Ferguson from Eglinton, has been called up for N. Ireland’s friendly against Norway at Windsor Park next week.
The 20-year-old, who is in the Newcastle first team squad, joins Paddy McCourt and Niall McGinn in Michael O’Neill’s first international squad.