FOOTBALL: A McClean break for Patrick who targets Walsall move
PATRICK McCLEAN was '˜hurt' when he was informed his Derry City career was over but he believes his release can prove to be a blessing in disguise as he looks to secure a deal with League One club, Walsall.
The teenage defender made just seven starts in the 2016 campaign and 13 appearances in total but he insists he can have little complaints given the ‘outstanding’ Dean Jarvis was his competition at left-back.
He was disappointed not to get a sustained run in the team when injuries struck City’s defence in the latter stages of the season but stresses that he holds no ill feelings towards the club or its management.
“Whenever I played I gave it my all,” he said. “I didn’t get the run of games I was hoping for. Having said that, I was playing left back and Dean Jarvis was outstanding during the season so I can’t really complain.
“I was told the day before the St Pat’s game they wouldn’t be keeping me on,” he explained. “But that’s football and you have to keep your head held high. I’m always going to be a Derry City fan.
“In one sense it hurt me but you just have to get on with it. I’m hoping to further my career and move on to a higher level. Maybe I could end my career at Derry but we’ll see how things go.
“I’d like to thank the Derry fans for their support even though they didn’t get to see much of me. I’m looking forward to kicking on.”
In fact he believes cutting ties with his hometown club has given him the springboard to go in search of a cross Channel move which slipped from his grasp in 2015 when Championship club, Bristol City reportedly tabled a £25,000 bid for his signature.
That potential move came at the wrong time for the now 19 year-old as his personal situation held him back but now he feels his development at Derry City and his new found maturity will help him find a new home at a top club in England.
Already he’s made an impact since beginning his trial period with Walsall. Having initially agreed on a three day trial, manager, Jon Whitney liked what he saw and asked the Derry lad to stay on until January when the club could possibly make him an offer as a free agent.
He feels he’s fitted in seamlessly with the first team in training and even set up the wining goal in a reserve match last week. Patrick agrees he’s by no means the finished article and could benefit from more defensive coaching, but he’s willing to do what it takes to make it.
“I was in for three days for them to have a look at me and I came in, worked hard and showed I was good enough to be there. He (Whitney) asked me to stay on for another few weeks and he’s giving me a chance. It’s down to me now.
“I’m training every day with the first team and have had a game with the reserves and I’m absolutely loving it.
“The facilities are great and there’s a gym where I can go in and do a bit extra. Walsall is 10 or 15 minutes down the road so it’s a good fit.
“It’s a great platform for me and I’ve been given a massive opportunity.”
Patrick looks up to his older brother and mentor, Republic of Ireland international James McClean, and found refuge at the winger’s family home in the Midlands when he left Derry at the end of the League of Ireland season.
He believes he can only benefit from watching the West Brom winger prepare for games and emulating his professional lifestyle. And he hopes James’ professionalism can continue to rub off on him.
Providing an insight into life in the McClean household, Patrick explained that he had no sooner touched down in England than he was forced into doing sit-ups with fitness fanatic James in his living room.
“James is a great role model,” added Patrick. “As soon as I landed here he had me doing a core session in the living room,” he laughed. “He looks after my diet as well so it’s great to be around him. I look up to him. He’s been a massive help for me. Even getting into Derry he played a big part. He was constantly telling me how to improve.”
And while he’s his brother’s biggest fan, Patrick wants to become his own success story and lose the annoying tag of ‘James McClean’s younger brother’.
“When I scored that goal in Longford (his first Derry City goal) and even when I was linked with Walsall I was always described as James McClean’s younger brother. But there’s only one person who can change that and that’s me. I want to be known for being me, not James’ younger brother.
Win win Situation
So what does Ireland international, James, who made the giant leap from playing League of Ireland football with Derry City to playing in the Premiership with Sunderland, think about his brother’s chances of making the grade in England.
“He’s living with me in England while he waits on getting a club in January,” he confirmed.
“That was always the plan, so getting the Walsall trial was a bonus.
“He’s eating right, he’s in a good routine and working hard in the gym. Whatever happens he will be fit and raring to go. It’s a big two months for him now and fingers crossed he gets that break.
“Obviously at the minute he can’t sign, he can’t sign until January. They just want to keep him in training with the first team. So come January they will make a decision on whether they want to sign him or not.
“It’s a positive thing. It’s a no lose situation. He’s in training with a League One first team squad and if he continues to do well and keep him on until January they sign him and he gets a club again.
“If not, he’s getting two or three months of really good training along with decent players where he’s going to learn a lot before he goes to whatever club he goes to in January.
“So I think it’s a win-win situation. He’s picked himself up and he’s got a great opportunity now. Fingers crossed he can grasp it with both hands.”