JAMES McClean admits it will feel like a “miracle” if he helps Sunderland to the FA Cup final, less than 12 months after swapping the Irish League for the Premier League.
McClean was at his inspirational best in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over QPR – setting up Nicklas Bendtner for the opener before scoring his fifth goal for Sunderland to double the Black Cats’ advantage.
Boss Martin O’Neill will hope the 22-year-old is equally influential tomorrow night when Sunderland look to continue their cup journey in the eagerly-awaited quarter-final replay against Everton.
For McClean, a trip to Wembley would represent another step on his fairytale journey which has seen the left winger go from the humble surroundings of Derry City to become a Republic of Ireland international and Premier League regular.
McClean said: “I watched the cup finals from being no age right up to last year – watching them in the morning when the players are still in the hotel, getting on the bus and things like that.
“Growing up as a kid I always watched it.
“Just to be involved in that this year would be a miracle, a dream come true.
“This last year has just been a whirlwind for me. I’ve grown up watching the Premier League week in, week out and you just dream of playing here. I’m relishing it, just enjoying every moment.”
McClean’s performance against QPR was a timely one after he signed an improved three-year deal last week.
It has been just reward for a player who has started every game for the Black Cats since being handed his full debut by O’Neill on New Year’s Day.
He added: “It is lovely to have been given a new contract by the club.
“I suppose it shows they have been pleased with my work so far and hopefully I can push on.
“When I first came over, the manager (Steve Bruce) said to me ‘just work hard and try to get your debut’, but things have happened a bit quicker than that.
“Hopefully, the next few months will be even better again.
“The manager (O’Neill) has given me a lot of confidence just by selecting me, but I’m also really enjoying my football.”