THE race to sign Derry City star, James McClean, has intensified with the news that representatives from Reading will be present at Brandywell this Friday night to run their eyes over the Airtricity League’s leading left winger.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
With scouts from Everton, Wigan and Watford present in Drogheda on Friday night last watching the 22-year-old in action, the “Journal” has learned that Reading boss, Brian McDermott will be accompanied by a member of his coaching staff at the Lone Moor Road venue this weekend having been monitoring the Creggan man’s progress over the past few weeks.
And with quite a few Irish players passing through the Madjeski Stadium over recent years including Kevin Doyle and Stephen Hunt, not to mention the fact that “The Royals” have placed a £10m price tag on Shane Long, it’s believed McDermott has been kept well up to date with McClean’s progress.
Blackpool, of course, have already tabled a bid for the player and while the approach was welcomed by the powers that be at the Brandywell, the offer was politely declined, with a suggestion that the offer had fallen far short of Derry’s valuation of their prized asset.
There’s no doubt that given his electrifying performances this season, the former Northern Ireland Under-21 international is a prominent feature on the radar across the Channel, but McClean has opted to remain focused, refusing to allow the widespread speculation get to him.
“Obviously, I’ve read a few stories in relation to me moving but, as I’ve always said, until Stephen Kenny tells me otherwise, I will remain totally committed to Derry City. I always try to give 100 per cent in every game that I play and that will not change,” he insisted.
“I’ve also read reports that this Friday’s game against Shamrock Rovers will be my last for Derry, but I find that an amazing statement to say the least. I’ve been told that such and such have been watching me play but - and I’m being totally honest - I know absolutely nothing about approaches or offers as no one has told me anything,” he added.
He openly admitted that, like any other player, his dream would be to move onto another level and try to secure his future within the game.
“I’m no different, of course I would love to move across the Channel and secure a contract with a high profile club. But I’ve learned over recent weeks that these things don’t happen every day. I’m enjoying playing football for Derry at the moment and I want to do everything in my power to assist my home town club this season.
“My thoughts are now focused on Shamrock Rovers this Friday night at the Brandywell. That’s a match I really want to play in and a win against them would certainly boost our chances of winning the Premier Division. That’s what I’m thinking about at the moment and, as I’ve already said, until Stephen comes to me and informs me that someone has come in for me, that will not change,” declared the Creggan man.
Ambition will be realised!
While Kenny is loathe to lose one of his current jewels, particularly before the end of the season, the Dubliner was the first to admit that he had no doubt that James would eventually secure a full-time contract in the U.K.
“James’ pre-season was interrupted due to injury, but since returning to full fitness he’s had a terrific season in the Premier Division. He’s not only a great lad, but has a great attitude and he’s developed quite a lot over the past two seasons.
“The feeling within Derry is appears to be inevitable that he will realise his ambition and a move to the UK is certainly a strong possibility. I believed that at the start of the season and his progression has strengthened that belief.
“But I’ve also got to think about Derry City and what we are trying to achieve at the Brandywell. There’s one-third of our season left and we remain in a strong position. We have quite a few really big games to play between now and October and I’m hopeful that James will be here to participate in those.
“He’s also been selected to represent the Airtricity League XI in the forthcoming Super Cup in the Aviva Stadium at the end of this month with games against Manchester City and Celtic, so that will also be something to look forward to,” noted Kenny.
“So as long as he continues to enjoy his football and continue to do well, the rest will look after itself. I’ve had experiences in the past in similar situations and that’s always the way it works out, continue playing at a high level, enjoy the experience and the future will look after itself.”
Kenny reiterated that a number of clubs had been keeping tabs on other players within his squad and he offered the same advice.
“While James’ performances have quite rightly warranted attention from elsewhere, there are other clubs watching a number of our young players and that has to be viewed as a good thing. To receive that attention, we must be doing something right, but as manager, I believe a move in October is a more realistic option that moving on in July.”
With Kevin Deery and Barry Molloy ruled out for the visit of Rovers and Gareth McGlynn and Eddie McCallion both expected to be suspended for the game, Kenny needs the remainder of his available troops to be in tip-top condition this Friday night.
“We’ll have to make a few changes but we’ll cope and get on with it. However, we need a passionate attendance to get behind us against the Premier Division leaders - a similar attendance to that which supported us in the game against Bohemians.
“It’s amazing the effect that vociferous home support can have on players as they attempt to rise to the occasion, but we need that against Rovers. A win would put us up to within one point of them and that’s a fantastic motivation for everyone involved with Derry City.
“It’s now a major fixture for us and to record back-to-back victories would certainly make the run-in to the end of the season very interesting,” concluded the Dubliner.