McClean in poppy shirt snub

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SUNDERLAND AFC winger James McClean has been criticised for refusing to wear a poppy in Saturday’s game at Everton.

Unlike the rest of his team-mates, who all wore special shirts with a poppy on the chest, the Republic of Ireland international decided against it.

The Wearsiders have been one of the leading clubs in recognising the Remembrance Sunday commemorations, and auction the shirts in aid of the Royal British Legion appeal.

A spokesman said: “As a club Sunderland AFC wholeheartedly supports the Remembrance Commemorations.

“It was James’ personal choice not to wear a shirt on this occasion.”

A spokesman for the Premier League said: “It is a matter of choice whether people wore the poppy.”

However, McClean was criticised by Seventy3 fanzine editor Mal Robinson, who served with the RAF in Iraq and Afghanistan, and whose father served in Northern Ireland in the 1980s.

He said: “The poppy not only symbolises the two world wars and various other conflicts around the globe, it symbolises the current war effort in Afghanistan, in what is a coalition effort to rid the world of extremists and terrorists that affect the Western world.

“Having been in Kabul as recently as April this year I know there was a very tiny handful, but a handful nevertheless, of Irish troops from south of the border there in aid of the massive operation, and so by not wearing a poppy McClean isn’t clearly identifying his own people in terms of respect.

“As he is actually representing SAFC and the city when wearing the colours, the decision should have been taken out of his hands.

“With Sunderland staging one of the biggest memorials outside of the capital, in what is a city proud of its forces, such a sensitive situation should have been defused by making it compulsory to wear his poppy.”

McClean, however, got support from people the Echo spoke to at yesterday’s Remembrance Day parade in Sunderland.

Ian Warriner, 47, and Helen Mackenzie, 49, thought the midfielder was justified in taking a stand.

“It’s all a political thing,” said roofer Mr Warriner. “It’s his personal choice so it’s up to him what he wants on his shirt or not.”

Angela Graham, 41, of Roker, said: “It’s probably just him making a stand for his own rights, but it’s his personal choice.

“You can’t force people to do things they don’t want to do.”

Parade steward Ryan Havelock, 19, of Barnes, said: “I don’t really follow football, but it’s up to the person themselves what they want to do, so it’s his choice really.”

Twitter: @davidallison88