JAMES McCLEAN says one-to-one tuition sessions with Sunderland coach Steve Guppy are ironing out the weak links in his game.
Former England international Guppy has spent the past six months at the Academy of Light, predominantly working on the technique of Sunderland’s young professionals.
Left-winger McClean has been the primary recipient of Guppy’s tutelage as Sunderland look to ensure the 23-year-old continues his meteoric rise after breaking onto the Premier League and international stage last season.
Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill is eager for McClean to be equally comfortable on the right flank and develop the use of his weaker right foot.
And after finding the net with his right in last week’s Capital One Cup victory over Morecambe, plus learning to swap flanks with summer signing Adam Johnson, McClean is confident he is making progress.
McClean told the Echo: “I got a goal with my right foot against Morecambe and almost got a hat-trick with it as well.
“I’ve been working every session with Gupps. I’m working on everything really, all aspects of my game and that can only help to improve me.
“Gupps was a good player and had a good career, so anything he can do to help me, I’m more than willing to take on board.
“I’m not the perfect player, I want to improve my game every day.
“If you have someone working with you, it only helps.”
McClean made the six-and-a-hour flight to Kazakhstan yesterday after recovering from a cold to join the Ireland squad for tomorrow’s World Cup qualifier.
Although the international break has inflicted a stop-start opening to the season for his club, McClean is eager to add to his four Ireland caps, though he is likely to start on the bench.
“It’s always nice to get away with your country,” said last year’s Young Player of the Season.
“It’s a bit of a trek out to Kazakhstan, but hopefully we’ll kick off our qualifying campaign with a win.
“It’s a bit strange not playing a home game for Sunderland until mid-September.
“But I just want to play in any game, no matter where it is and who it’s against.”
The international break also provides a chance for Sunderland front pair Steven Fletcher and Stephane Sessegnon to boost their fitness after both suffered an injury-hit pre-season.
Fletcher is using the fortnight away from Premier League action to work on his conditioning at the Academy of Light, while Sessegnon will line up for Benin in tomorrow’s friendly in Egypt.
McClean added: “They (Fletcher and Sessegnon) haven’t played a lot of football during pre-season and it’s obviously nice for them to get that.
“Once they get their sharpness, we’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
“That’s my opinion and I think it’s going to be an exciting season.
“It’s good to have some quality strikers in the middle and that bodes well for the club.”