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Football

15th Sep 2023

‘They see themselves as superior to us’ – James McClean delivers raw, impassioned Late Late Show interview

Patrick McCarry

“I’ll let you tell the jokes and I’ll tell the stories.”

James McClean had never been on The Late Late Show before, but that all changed – and then some – in Patrick Kielty’s first show as host.

The Wrexham and Ireland star was the final guest on the long-running talk show, and he discussed having a daughter with autism, his own recent diagnosis, Stephen Kenny and his future with Ireland.

James McCleanJames McClean of Republic of Ireland. (Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile)

James McClean on growing up in Derry and autism diagnosis

Patrick Kielty started off by asking James Mcclean about his move to League Two side, Wrexham, who are owned by Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

“They could text you after the games and stuff,” he said. “I’m not one to get taken aback but you’re getting my messages from these mega-stars. It’s mad.”

When Kielty changed tack, and brought up vitriolic fan abuse, when he plays games in many parts of the UK, the midfielder said it is ‘like a duck to water, now’.

“It’s not going to change. I’m well used to it. I know how to handle it… if people want to go and take their week’s frustrations out at me, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Erin, his wife, was in the crowd and spoke of having to tell her children – ‘You’re going to hear not nice things about daddy but that’s because he’s in the other team’. She added that ‘it can be tough’.

Asked what the lowest point of such fan abuse was, McClean considered it before responding, “You get quite headstrong… but it’s a different kettle of fish when your children get brought into it.”

Kielty brought up McClean’s long-held stance not to wear the commemorative poppy each November, when he is playing club matches in England. He commented:

“I knew when I took the stance, there was going to be consequences… I grew up as a young lad in Derry with my beliefs, just because I became a footballer in England, doesn’t mean I’m going to change them.

“It’s quite funny, actually, because, there’s two sides to that history but, over there [in England], there is an arrogance and ignorance, where they are taught one side of history. They speak about the I.R.A, and this and that, as terrorists. We look upon the British army as terrorists, as well, because of what they inflicted in my home city, and throughout the north of Ireland.”

“They see themselves as quite arrogant and superior to us,” he added. “That has been the frustration for me. I understand their belief but I don’t go around trying to push my beliefs on them.”

Kielty and McClean then spoke about the footballer’s six-year-old daughter, Willow-Ivy, who has autism. “Life has changed,” he said, “but for the better… seeing the struggles she has to deal with, it has made us more patient and understanding.”

McClean himself underwent an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) test, earlier this year, and it was found that he was on the spectrum.

James McClean

James McClean on his Ireland future

Patrick Kielty then asked James McClean about his future with Stephen Kenny’s Ireland. The 34-year-old reflected, “When you get older, unfortunately, all good things come to an end.

“There’s still four games left in this calendar year so it won’t be before that… There’s a long gap in between that and the next campaign… I’ll be another year older, and we’ll see where I am after that.”

Moving on to the current Ireland boss, McClean said, “I see what he puts in, every day. For Stephen Kenny it is the ultimate job – managing his country.”

“In football, you are judged by your results,” McClean mused. “We’re all disappointed this campaign hasn’t gone the way we wanted.”

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