Republic of Ireland midfielder James McClean hits back at media criticism of Martin O'Neill
"Some pundits need to be controversial to be heard."
The Republic of Ireland's crushing 5-1 defeat to Denmark was difficult for everyone to get over. The nature of the loss, in which Christian Eriksen mercilessly tore through Ireland's defence en route to a hat-trick at the Aviva Stadium, attracted a strong response, with much of the criticism focusing on Martin O'Neill.
Following the game, O'Neill's critics sharpened their knives after he had effectively rid the team of a central midfield and left the defence at Eriksen's mercy.
McClean was as hurt as anyone that night, leaving the pitch in ignominy and pain, comforted by his injured captain Seamus Coleman, as the Danes toasted securing their place at the World Cup in Russia.
However, the West Brom winger feels as though some of the criticism of O'Neill was excessive and says he believes pundits and former players are being deliberately stinging in their assessment of the Ireland manager in order to further their own media careers.
"100%," McClean said today in Dublin when asked if the criticism was over the top.
"A lot of it was uncalled for. But I understand pundits and ex-players in the media have to make a name for themselves, and they feel they have to be controversial to get noticed.
McClean has established himself as one of the first names on the Ireland teamsheet under O'Neill, cementing that status with key goals during the World Cup qualifying campaign, including that memorable winner to sink Wales in Cardiff. With that in mind, it's understandable that McClean would feel obliged to defend his manager, a man who has shown great faith in him during a time when his club managers have not.
"I think his record is very underrated. We qualified for the Euros from a very tough group, we got to the last 16 out of a very tough group and were narrowly beaten by France. And then we were one game from going to a World Cup, which isn’t a bad feat for a very small country."
"He’s an unbelievable motivator. He makes you feel you’re the best player in the world when you’re going on the pitch. As a player, going on the pitch, knowing you’ve got the full backing of your manager to go and express yourself, there’s no better. [In terms of] His man-management, I’ve never worked with anyone better."
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