Martin O’Neill is to speak to winger James McClean amid fears that the Derryman could be targeted by Northern Ireland fans over his decision not to wear a Remembrance Day poppy.
The Stoke City midfielder once again found himself in the firing line in the run-up to Armistice Day because of his long-held stance over the annual tribute to war veterans, and avoided sanction from the Football Association following his angry social media response.
The Derry-born Republic of Ireland international, whose objections relate to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, could have to walk a gauntlet once again at the Aviva Stadium during Thursday evening’s friendly.
Asked if he feared it could be an issue, O’Neill said: “James had an illness in the family yesterday, so I wasn’t able to get a chance to speak to him. He has just come in this morning, although he trained this morning, and I will speak to him over the next 24 hours.
“Naturally, I’m hoping that it won’t be an issue, but I don’t know.”
However, Republic captain Seamus Coleman called on supporters to respect McClean’s decision, which he explained in an articulate statement during his time at Wigan and insisted he would happily wear a poppy if it commemorated only the dead of the two World Wars and not subsequent conflicts.
Coleman said: “Look, James is well fit to handle himself, as people know. James made his points clear on the poppy situation three or four years ago when he was at Wigan.
“He gave a statement and he tried to be as respectful as he could in that statement, and I think he needs to be respected for his decision.
“The part of Ireland he was brought up in, it’s close to home for him and he has his opinions on it and we’re in a world nowadays where people should respect people’s opinions.”