Sunderland’s McClean thrives as old-fashioned winger

James McClean

James McClean

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JAMES McClean has vowed to continue taking on opposition defenders after seeing his style reap instant rewards in the Premier League.

The Sunderland winger has been likened to a throwback from a by-gone era, with a single-minded desire to beat the full-back and then deliver a cross from the byline.

While the former Derry City man’s gameplan achieved success in the League of Ireland, there are not many natural widemen in the same mould plying their trade in the Premier League.

But the 22-year-old has starred in his first two Sunderland starts and will persist with the ploy drummed into him during his formative years in Northern Ireland.

McClean said: “It has felt strange, I just seem to have adapted straight away to the Premier League, but the more I am playing, the more confidence I am getting.

“I am playing with no fear. I have great confidence in my own ability and that has always been me.

“No matter who the full-back is I’m faced with, I want to get past him and get my crosses and shots in.

“It’s always been my game growing up. I was a winger who just liked to try to beat the full-backs, get in the crosses or try to get a shot away.

“That’s what I have always enjoyed doing.”

McClean has helped Sunderland transform their league position thanks to a bumper points total over the festive period.

Martin O’Neill’s men have taken seven points out of a possible nine since Boxing Day to move into the top half of the Premier League table.

McClean, used to playing over the summer months in the League of Ireland, has had to face the learning curve of competing over Christmas, but is not complaining after breaking into the starting XI and scoring his first Sunderland goal at Wigan on Tuesday night.

“It has actually been the perfect Christmas,” added the 22-year-old.

“My mum wasn’t too pleased because it was the first Christmas I had missed. She was on the phone Christmas Day, a little upset, but it’s all about making sacrifices to succeed. This is what I want to do.

“It has been a phenomenal year for me.

“Just to get this move was great and now I am in the team and I have scored.”