JAMES McClean has been warned – by the player he would replace – that he has an almighty battle on his hands breaking into the Republic of Ireland starting line-up at next month’s Euros.
Spartak Moscow winger Aiden McGeady has watched the rise of McClean at Sunderland with interest – the former Derry City man broke into the Black Cats’ side in Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge back in December and has barely looked back since.
Having established himself as one of the best emerging talents in the Premier League, McClean won an Ireland call-up in February and earlier this month broke into the Republic squad for the Euro 2012 finals.
But McGeady (pictured right) and Fulham midfielder Damien Duff have been Giovanni Trapattoni’s first-choice wide men throughout his four years at the helm and Glasgow-born McGeady is adamant neither is going to stand aside and let the new boy cash in on all their hard work.
He said: “Myself and Duffer didn’t play in most of the games to go: ‘Ah, no problem. Listen, you just take my place on the wing for the Euros’.
“You are always going to have competition and players are going to be coming up and playing well at club level and getting thrust into the limelight. That’s football for you.
“But I suppose it’s my job to maintain a performance where I can be playing every game, and it’s his job to try to catch the manager’s eye and fight myself or fight Duffer for a place. That’s the way football is.”
McGeady has watched McClean’s rise to prominence from afar and been impressed. But, having been thrust on to the international stage himself at an early age, the 26-year-old knows how tough it can be and has urged patience with the 23-year-old former Derry City player.
The former Celtic man – who has himself been linked with a move to Sunderland since O’Neill’s arrival – said: “It’s another player who has been playing well in the Premier League coming into the squad and obviously wanting to fight for a starting place.
“Competition is always going to be healthy in any team at club or international level.
“He’s been doing really well and obviously there has been a lot of hype, but, to be fair, it was the same with Seamus Coleman of Everton last year as well.
“I wouldn’t put too much pressure on him, that’s all I would say, because he is still young.”
McGeady joined up with the squad on Sunday having helped Spartak claim Champions League football for next season by finishing second behind Zenit St Petersburg.
His form, barring a spell out of the side in March, earned him a place in the top 33 players in Russia, something he admits came as a surprise.
He said: I probably didn’t think I would have been, but when I got back into the team for the last seven or eight games of the season, I was playing some good stuff and the team was playing well, so that’s probably how I was voted into that.
“It’s kind of a strange voting system, but it’s official.
“It’s a great honour to be voted for by – it’s not actually your fellow peers, it’s the Russian Federation, the official Russian football people – so it’s a good achievement.”