The acclaim which greeted the on-field arrival of Derry’s James McClean during last Wednesday’s game with the Czech Republic was like the return of the messiah. The roars of the Lansdowne Road crowd for his substitution and, subsequently, every time he touched the ball was a little baffling to say the least. While the midfielder has made an enormous impact in his short spell playing first team football for Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland, his inclusion on the plane to Poland in the summer seems a foregone conclusion to many pundits and fans alike.
The same rapture that welcomed McClean, greeted the competitive debut of James McCarthy only a year ago, which put to bed any doubts over the Glasgow-born youngster‘s allegiances.
McCarthy’s reception was much more warranted having made over 100 appearances for Hamilton Accademical in Scotland before his transfer to Wigan in 2009. He was no flash in the pan and Barcelona were rumoured to be keeping a close eye on the talented midfielder.
Compare that to McClean’s eleven appearances before the Czech Republic game.
While McClean is certainly one for the future, a little reflection is needed here. The cheers for his every touch on Wednesday night were a little extreme to say the least. He has a long way to go before he lives up to this level of hype.
McClean’s place, or lack thereof, in the Euro 2012 squad is now likely to be the subject of every Trapattoni press conference in the coming months leading up to the summer tournament.
Reporters now have a new player to hold up as the keystone to Ireland’s central midfield. Andy Reid, Steven Reid and Stephen Ireland were all at one time the darlings of the media and the exclusion of each from the panel whenever the Italian announced a squad wracked up the column inches in the papers.
In fact the exclusion of these players made for much more interesting copy than anything they have done on the pitch since.
The Italian has hinted he knows what to expect:
“When I saw the tremendous reaction from the crowd to McClean coming on, I thought: ‘Is Messi or Maradona or Pelé coming on?’ I’m only joking … I know what happens with the people and it’s good for him. There is enthusiasm. But McGeady, Duff … they deserve respect. Go slowly, slowly [with the young players].”
It begs the question, perhaps Mr. Trapattoni knows what he is doing after-all, following his long and distinguished managerial career?