View from the Bridge: Mr McClean’s moan is just a bunch of poppycock

James McLean in action against Newcastle United at St. James Park. Picture by FRANK REID

James McLean in action against Newcastle United at St. James Park. Picture by FRANK REID

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POLITICS, politics. The general election was officially announced on Monday. Before then we had only been irritated unofficially.

But even when electioneering is not in full swing, politics is never far away from anything. This includes football and it is a simple soul who would expect otherwise.

Sunderland AFC has been haunted by undesirables from its past in recent weeks.

James McClean, who left in 2013, has reopened an old wound by moaning about the time he refused to wear a poppy on his shirt in November 2012.

He has repeated his claim that anyone wishing to condemn him for this has somehow failed to understand his actions.

He said: “It irritates me because with people not knowing my reasons, even my own fans turned on me. They didn’t understand.”

But they did. McClean was born and brought up in Derry around the corner from where Bloody Sunday took place in 1972. He holds no candle for the British Army. We get it. Approving or otherwise, it was easy to understand.

No one needed to see his open letter last November to Dave Whelan, owner of his current club Wigan Athletic, to work out his reasons; although we realise how much Mr Whelan appreciates a careful choice of words.

It was McClean who did not understand. He mistakenly thinks that the poppy is the preserve of jingoistic Brits, when in reality it is worn by people across several spectrums, including pacifists and Irish Republicans (who do not necessarily agree with the IRA or Sinn Fein).

So it was a bit much for him to claim this week: “Speaking honestly, I think I was hung out to dry by the press people at Sunderland.”

Rather optimistically, James thinks that if the club had just ignored his decision to refuse to wear the poppy during that game at Everton, then no one would have noticed and everything would have been oojah-cum-spiff. Again, who was it that “didn’t understand”?

With completely unfounded indignation, he continued: “But pre-game, the press officer went out and issued a statement saying that I wouldn’t be wearing a poppy, that it was my own decision and that, as a club, they fully supported the poppy appeal.”

What on earth did he expect? James’ alternative plan would have been for Sunderland to allow him to speak on the matter.

He said: “When I asked to be allowed to speak about it, I was told that that was a bad idea, not to say anything and let it blow over.

“So it was kind of brushed under the table and I felt that was more for the club’s benefit than mine. I think it could have saved so much hassle.”

Club officials acting “for the club’s benefit”? The granite-hearted cads. And what could possibly have gone wrong had they let him speak freely?

Within four months of his poppycock (geddit?) he sent out a Tweet saying: “Headphones in, Wolfe Tones on! What’s everyone’s fave song? Broad Black Brimmer edges mine.”

You may not be familiar with the composition. It is unlikely to feature on The X-Factor any time soon.

That song’s chorus includes the lyrics: “When men claim Ireland’s freedom;

The one who’ll choose to lead ‘em;

Will wear the broad black brimmer of the IRA.”

James could not for the life of him see why anyone would be offended by such anodyne Twittering of his musical preferences. This was when he was taken out of the “naive” file and re-categorised under

“thick.”

He has now re-burbled his “case” over the poppy, but Sunderland are hardly in a position to issue an official statement along the lines of: “Ignore him. He’s a simpleton.”

Happily, journalists operate under no such constraints.

Incidentally, Wigan Athletic’s statement in response to McClean’s letter to Dave Whelan last November was: “This is a personal decision by James” and that the club would plod on with the Remembrance Day commemorations; or to put it another way, exactly the same as Sunderland’s response two years earlier.

McClean has yet to claim that his current employer had him “hung out to dry.”

Sunderland AFC did nothing wrong.

THE Alcoholic Health Alliance are not best pleased, so watch out. You know what that lot are like when they kick off; especially if they’ve had a few.

They have written to the Premier League expressing concern that its next sponsor could be Diageo, a drinks manufacturer that knocks out Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Gordon’s gin, Captain Morgan rum and much else that will get the party started.

Diageo have had some appalling publicity over the years, but the AHA is only concerned with health implications.

They wrote: “It is morally wrong for huge multinational alcohol companies to target our children and young people through sport.

“Diageo’s pursuit of the Premier League sponsorship is a particularly cynical attempt to push consumption of its products to new consumers.” Miaow.

Perhaps they have a point. But in football, anything that can be described, rightly or wrongly, as “morally wrong” is not a venture likely to face censure from those with power and influence.

Premier League kit sponsors this season include one booze company, four gambling firms, a pawn shop, a loan shark and an electronics firm that had child labour in its supply chain.

But no one minds booze companies, gambling firms, pawn shops, loan sharks or electronics firms that had child labour in its supply chain; as long as they’re nice.

Health watchdogs would do better to look at the sponsors of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. One pint of that stuff and I’m anybody’s.

As for the next sponsor of the PL, the league is unlikely to sink any further than it did with the present incumbent – a bank.