SUNDERLAND manager, Martin O’Neill believes James McClean can lay the ghosts of Euro 2012 to rest and continue his ‘fairytale rise’ to prominence with the “Black Cats” next season.
“He has been sensational,” admitted O’Neill who was in Portrush on Wednesday for the Pro-Am event at the Irish Open.
“I can remember whenever he came on against Blackburn Rovers, he gave us that little bit of extra impetus and he never really looked back after that.
“Then whenever he got his chance in terms of starting he really took his chance and played well to ensure that he kept his place in the starting line-up.”
Indeed the 23-year-old enjoyed a remarkable season in the North-East of England after his move from Derry City on a three year deal and O’Neill believes the Creggan man will continue his improvement.
“I know people are talking about the ‘second season syndrome’ but I have no doubt that he has the ability and the capacity to keep it going,” said the Kilrea man.
“It has been an almost fairy tale like rise which he has had and even getting into the European Championship squad and although he didn’t get much game time, he still needs to now get a break and come back a bit later than some of the rest of the squad and then take off from where he left off.”
McClean only played 14 minutes of competitive action for the Republic of Ireland in the European Championships but he is keen to maintain his high standards showm at club level and press a claim for a starting berth in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers which get underway away to Kazakhstan in September.
“We have to do our best to qualify,” he said. “Germany are flying at the minute and Sweden are a tough side but there are other good teams there also and we know it’s not going to be easy.
“But we have to take confidence into it and believe that we can qualify. The World Cup is the biggest stage in the world and you can show what you can do. I want to be there with Ireland.
“It was great to get my competitive debut against Spain but on a personal level I was disappointed not to get more playing time,” he added. “I always thought I would get a run-out at some stage.
“I was disappointed when I didn’t get the start against Spain because, just like any player, you want to play as many minutes as possible.
“When the manager told me I was coming on during the Spain match it was obviously exciting, but it was no surprise that he didn’t make changes because he said that he was going to use the players that had got Ireland there.
“It was disappointing but understandable that he stuck with the players.
“Hopefully as we go on I can get more playing time and repay the confidence they’ve shown in me,” he concluded.