James McClean on the pain of Denmark, returning to Derry and a frustrating season with West Brom 5 years ago

James McClean on the pain of Denmark, returning to Derry and a frustrating season with West Brom

"It hurt for a long time."

Leaning forward and looking down, it's clear that merely mentioning Denmark is a lot to process for James McClean.


Three months on from that harrowing night in Dublin, the Republic of Ireland midfielder is intent on moving onto what is sure to be a different 2018 (Nations League, some young players coming into the squad).

However, it's entirely understandable that the memories of Christian Eriksen leading the Irish defenders on a merry dance around an increasingly solemn Aviva Stadium are still raw.

“It is difficult because that night hurt, it hurt deep for a very long time," McClean told us in Dublin on Wednesday. "The joys of club football is that there is always next week to put that right and get over the pain of it."

“In international football, that was back in November and we have to wait until March before we have another game. Nothing is going to put that right unless we qualify for World Cup, which will hopefully happen in my playing career.”

McClean's goal on the international front for 2018 is simple: win. Being pitted against familiar foes Wales and Denmark in the Nations League offers the opportunity for revenge, but extinguishing that overriding sense of anguish following November's play-off defeat remains very much at the forefront of the 28-year-old's mind.


“To get as many wins as possible," McClean said when asked about his aims for Ireland. "With wins, comes confidence and belief. We’ll try to get as many wins as possible and take that forward into the European [Championship] campaign. When you step out onto a football pitch, you just want to win every game. That’s pretty much it.”

McClean is feeling positive about Ireland's future, especially since Martin O'Neill ended speculation over his own future by signing a new contract, but the outlook domestically may be bleaker.

Not only are West Brom rock-bottom of the Premier League, having won once in the league since August, McClean has not been starting nearly as much as he would like. McClean, like many wingers, is a confidence player and feels as though he is at his best when he gets a regular run of games under his belt. He likes to play his way into form but, for a number of reasons, that hasn't been possible at the Hawthorns this season.


"No, nowhere near as much as I would like to," the former Sunderland man said when quizzed about how he feels at a lack of starting opportunities at club level.

"It's not been ideal too considering where we are in the league. So it's been really frustrating, but I played on Saturday in the cup, played really well, so hopefully I can get a start now on Saturday against Huddersfield as well. I feel I'm at my best when I get a run of games.

So far, that's eluded me this season. So hopefully now I can build on Saturday's performance, have another good game on Saturday, we get a win, and me as a player and us as a team take that confidence going forward to a crucial part of the season because we need wins and we need wins very fast.

McClean also admitted that a January move to Derby looked like a possibility at one stage and, although there is perhaps a tinge of disappointment that it didn't go through, he's singularly focused on helping the Baggies avoid relegation.

"It was on the cards but it didn't happen. I can sulk, but at the end of the day I've got a job to do here at West Brom. My main focus now is to get my head down, be the best I can be, help West Brom pick up points and avoid the drop this season. We're going to need everyone pulling in the same direction. There's no time to sulk – I'm a professional, I'm employed by West Brom, and while I'm at West Brom I'll give 110% to ensure I do the best for West Brom."

"I think the next five games, six games determine whether we stay up or go down. We need to start by beating Huddersfield on Saturday. There's no easy games in this league – far from it. That shows. We've won three games all season. If you look at our squad on paper, you could say we shouldn't be where we are, but the reality is we are where we are. So it's up to us to turn that around, and only we can do that. On Saturday, I can't stress enough, we need three points and anything less is a disaster."

Looking further into the future, McClean insists he still hopes to return to Derry City before he retires, having played for the Candystripes between 2008 and 2011, when he was snapped up by Sunderland. McClean remains a Derry City fan, of course, but jokingly admitted he's driven by the added incentive of potentially turning out against his brother, Patrick, who this week signed for Sligo Rovers.


"That’s the plan, that’s not going to go away, that’s always the plan," he said. "I was always planning on moving back home as soon as I finish up.

"If I’m still fit and ready and they’re willing to take me that would be nice and it would be good to kick my brother too. That would be an added bonus."

We're sure his brother will be onto him after that. Classic sibling rivalry.

James McClean was speaking at the launch of Neymar Jr’s Five in Dublin, Red Bull’s unique five-a-side football tournament for men and women. The tournament is a fun, fast-paced and technical game that gives young Irish male and female footballers (16-25 yrs.) the opportunity to represent Ireland at the World Final in Brazil this summer. To participate in the regional qualifiers this February, teams of five to seven players must register at www.neymarjrsfive.com and select their preferred qualifier in either Dublin, Limerick, Belfast, Galway, Cork or Carlow with more qualifiers to be added in the coming weeks.