DAMIEN RICHARDSON claims James McClean has the talent to compete at the highest level of English football and the Creggan man will have the best possible platform to cement those claims in tomorrow’s Dublin Super Cup at Aviva Stadium.
SIMON COLLINS reports
The Airtricity League XI boss, has been a regular visitor to the Brandywell Stadium this season in his capacity as an RTE pundit, the Dubliner experiencing at first hand the ability which has attracted interest from English Premiership club, Wigan Athletic and Championship new boys, Peterborough United.
While the much sought-after winger sat out most of this week’s training at Richmond Park and Tallaght nursing a dead leg sustained against Dundalk last Friday night, Richardson still plans on unleashing the 22-year-old against either Manchester City or Glasgow Celtic this weekend.
The former Cork City manager has high expectations for Derry City’s rising star who he believes can only improve with time and the Dubliner has challenged McClean - who was been called into the Northern Ireland squad for the first time for the European Championship qualifier against the Faroe Islands on August 10th - to use this weekend’s tournament as a “stepping stone” to securing a cross-channel move.
Tomorrow’s high profile competition, which kicks-off with the Airtricity Select’s clash with Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City (K.O. 2 p.m.) will be broadcast live by Sky Sports to over 100 countries worldwide and Richardson believes it will be provide an invaluable opportunity for McClean to prove he can operate at the highest level.
McClean’s proposed move to Peterborough broke down this week after the club’s Director of Football, Barry Fry angrily claimed he failed to negotiate personal terms with the player’s agent, Platinum One. However, Richardson is hoping that the winger’s performance at this weekend’s showpiece will attract other interested parties from England and beyond.
“For someone like James it’s a terrific opportunity,” said Richardson last night.
“He has a dead leg and we’re being very careful with him but I’m hoping it doesn’t restrict his ability over the weekend.
“This is a platform that we’ve never had in this country before, to play against such esteemed company in a magnificent stadium and for it to be broadcast live to so many different countries. It is a fantastic opportunity for James to go out and impress and attract scouts from many different places.
“I have no doubt James will be a great success and if everything works out in his favour this weekend, this could be a big stepping stone for him and his career.”
Having noticed a dramatic improvement in the player’s talent and physique since the club’s promotion to the Premier Division this season, Richardson says he possesses all the attributes to follow in the footsteps of Shane Long and Kevin Doyle in making the transition to the top level.
“Having seen James quite a few times this season, both at home and away, I would have a very high expectation level for him because, in many respects, he’s a very good, old fashioned winger. He gets at full-backs and hammers the ball across the penalty area and it’s great to see Eamon Zayed taking full advantage of that and leading the goalscoring charts.
“He’s very direct. He can come in on the inside and use his right foot, or go on the outside and whip in those crosses and then he’s also dangerous in the box, coming in at the back post and surprising defenders.
“And the physical nature of his game has improved dramatically,” continued Richardson. “I was talking to him on Wednesday and I noticed the physique he had. With good training and a lot of investment from qualified people, his physical fitness can improve enormously which would give him extra power and further improve his pace and shooting ability.
“I can see huge improvements coming from him but the most important part is his belief in himself and his ability to maintain control of his situation, not get carried away, not to listen to false flattery and to keep his feet firmly on the ground.
“We all know about Shane Long and Kevin Doyle and people of that nature but you just have to look at Derry and you’ve got Ryan McBride, Stephen McLaughlin, Daniel Lafferty and James McClean. There’s a terrific emphasis on developing young players and bringing young players through. Derry epitomise that as much, if not more, than anyone else in the league.
“I can see James becoming a great success because he has all the attributes to be a terrific winger and I think he could also play down the middle as a centre forward with his pace and mobility,” he added.
Dublin Super Cup Fixtures - Tomorrow; Airtricity League XI v Manchester City, Aviva Stadium (2.00pm); Inter Milan v Celtic, Aviva Stadium (4.30pm). Sunday - Airtricity XI v Celtic, Aviva Stadium (2pm); Inter Milan v Manchester City, Aviva Stadium (4.30pm).