James McClean explains poppy snub

AFP, LONDON

Sun, Nov 09, 2014 - Page 19

Wigan Athletic’s Irish winger James McClean has revealed why he did not wear a poppy-embroidered shirt in Friday’s soccer Championship match against Bolton.

This weekend’s round of fixtures in England will see clubs up and down the country wear poppies on their jerseys to commemorate Remembrance Sunday on the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I.

However, Londonderry-born Republic of Ireland international McClean took the personal decision not to sport a poppy at the Macron Stadium.

It is not the first time McClean has opted out of wearing a poppy.

In 2012, police investigated allegations that McClean had been the target of death threats after snubbing the poppy shirt while playing for Sunderland at Everton.

And in a bid to avoid more potential problems for McClean, Wigan’s official Web site published a letter from the player addressed to Wigan chairman Dave Whelan in which the winger, who was named among the substitutes, clarified his stance.

In that letter, McClean said: “I have complete respect for those who fought and died in both World Wars — many I know were Irish-born. I have been told that your own grandfather Paddy Whelan, from Tipperary, was one of those. I mourn their deaths like every other decent person, and if the poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War I and II, I would wear one; I want to make that 100 percent clear. You must understand this.”

“But the poppy is used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me,” McClean wrote. “For people from the North of Ireland such as myself, and specifically those in Derry, scene of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, the poppy has come to mean something very different.”

“Please understand, Mr Whelan, that when you come from Creggan like myself or the Bogside, Brandywell or the majority of places in Derry, every person still lives in the shadow of one of the darkest days in Ireland’s history — even if, like me, you were born nearly 20 years after the event,” he wrote. “It is just a part of who we are, ingrained into us from birth.”

“Mr Whelan, for me to wear a poppy would be as much a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles — and Bloody Sunday,” he said. “It would be seen as an act of disrespect to those people; to my people.”

In the game, Lee Chung-yong helped Bolton extend their impressive run under new manager Neil Lennon as the South Korea midfielder inspired a 3-1 win over Wigan.