James McClean issues come-and-get-me plea to Celtic
JAMES McClean has issued a come-and-get-me plea to Celtic boss, Brendan Rodgers, reiterating his desire to play for the Scottish champions and claiming it was a 'special feeling' to play in front of the Celtic support.
The West Brom winger was clearly out to impress as he shone for the Republic of Ireland in Scott Brown's testimonial at Parkhead on Sunday and he admitted he'd love to make it a regular experience by signing for his boyhood heroes.
He was greeted with arguably the biggest cheer of the day with the Celtic supporters clearly happy to have the Derry man join the 'double treble winners' in the summer.
Having suffered relegation from the English Premiership with West Brom, the 29 year-old's future is uncertain with just one year remaining on his current deal and he's indicated he'd be willing to leave the Hawthorns with Celtic a real possibility should Rodgers want him.
McClean has made no secret of his hopes of one day playing for Celtic and explained how he's come close to joining the Scottish Premier League champions in the past.
“Look, if it was up to me I’d have been a Celtic player a long time ago," said McClean. “When I was leaving Sunderland, you get the rumour pages and I saw one saying Celtic had a bid accepted for me and I remember being buzzing. At the time it was under Paolo Di Canio and it was in my head that I was leaving anyway. I thought this is it! But absolutely nothing came of it.
“They signed Derk Boerrigter instead. For one reason or another over the last few years it hasn’t happened - but it hasn’t been for the want of trying."
He's attracted interest from Burnley and Derby County this year but for McClean, 'Celtic's definitely the one' move which interests him most.
“The way it is where I’m from, you’ve got two teams. I was a Manchester United fan but everyone’s a Celtic fan back home and as you get older, it was more Celtic than United. Celtic’s definitely the one.
“I’ve been to plenty of games, as far back as when Martin was the manager, my first game was when they beat Hearts 2-1 at Hampden and Craig Bellamy scored.
“That shows you how far back that was. Any opportunity I get, especially the big Champions League nights, I go to the games because it’s only up the road from Birmingham. It’s five or six hours, and it is a trek back down but any opportunity, I grab.
“The last one was the 3-3 with Manchester City and it was a Wednesday night, I had training the next morning. I felt horrible, but it’s about trying to time it better now.
“So I wasn’t going to miss this (testimonial game) for anything because it was the opportunity to play at Celtic Park in front of Celtic fans.
“It was amazing getting cheers from the crowd when I went to take a corner. Growing up a Celtic fan myself and getting a reception like that at off the Celtic faithful, it was a special feeling.
“Whether I get the opportunity to play here as a Celtic player or not, that will be something I will always keep with me and treasure.
“I’ve just turned 29, I feel great. Fitter than I’ve ever been. If the opportunity comes it would be a very difficult one to turn down. I’ve never hidden that."
The former Derry City winger wanted to leave West Brom in January amid interest from Burnley while Derby failed in a £6 million bid to boost their Championship play-off hopes. He made 30 appearances in West Brom's doomed league campaign but only 14 of those were starts.
"It was a frustrating season of course. I had tough days but that happens when you don’t play. You’re frustrated and angry, you question a lot of things - why am I not playing? Does the manager like me? Am I giving him enough?
“I’m never one to shirk a challenge by going into my shell and feeling sorry for myself so I just worked harder than ever. I managed to play more or less every minute of the last six games of the season and as a footballer, that’s what it’s about - playing football.
“I know we got relegated but I think considering where we were to where we finished, we kinda got a bit of pride back, a little bit of dignity. Now coming here to play football in a different atmosphere, your mood switches straight away.
“I have ambitions of playing at the highest level because you want to be the best you can be as a footballer. I’ve another year left on my contract so we’ll see what happens over the summer.”