Football | 6 days ago

Smug as could be.

James McClean wore a big smile back to West Bromwich Albion training this week.

A national hero once again, the Derry man's status only grows bigger on the island but his antics during the international break affected everyone in Wales for the worse.

A right-footed half-volley sent the Irish to the World Cup playoffs and it sent the Welsh packing, even on their own turf.

And Welsh man Tony Pulis didn't appreciate it very much.

"He won’t be playing for me for what he’s done for Wales," McClean's club manager said during Friday's press conference.

He was joking, of course.

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"He’s done brilliant James, he’s a great lad," Pulis continued.

"It was a great goal and great technique on his right foot.

"Obviously it was a goal that killed off our hopes and aspirations."

But Pulis is a big fan of McClean's. Whatever you think of the man's tactics or thoughts on how the game should be played, what he gets from McClean is so much more than work rate and a defensive contribution.

He gets honesty, pure honesty. He gets energy, unrelenting energy. He also gets attacking drive, directness, and consistency. When he uses him from the bench like he has done three times this season already, he gets impact.

McClean would be any manager's dream but the encounter between the midfielder and his club boss after the international break wasn't kind on Tony Pulis when the two of the met face to face again.

"He said 'morning' with the biggest grin I’ve ever seen in my life," the manager said.

"I just ignored him walking down the corridor.

"There's a bit of banter going around the place and the manager taking a bit of stick as you can imagine."

You might have a good working relationship at West Brom, Tony. But nothing will ever come between Jimmy and Ireland.

Tony Cascarino on the SportsJOE Live couch and Rory Best answer questions.

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Republic of Ireland, James McClean, West Bromwich Albion