O’Neill backs McClean as police investigate death threats

Martin O’Neill has defended James McClean from more criticism for his refusal to wear a poppy last week, as well as an oddly withdrawn death threat from a former British soldier.

McClean came on after 70 minutes of Sunderland’s 3-1 win at Fulham yesterday and was subjected to isolated boos around Craven Cottage. That only followed a bizarre incident earlier in the day when 29-year-old Mancunian Codey Lachey said there was "no threat" from him despite posting images of 5.6mm bullets on the winger’s twitter timeline.

O’Neill, however, backed McClean to come through it all as well as defending his right to choose.

"James will deal with it. I think [the booing] is probably to do with the issue of last week," he said. "It’s a free choice in this world.

"James has lived with a lot of things. He’s getting death threats as well now so that doesn’t help."

It is understood O’Neill was referring to Lachey’s tweets, which police are investigating.

Lachey, however, was quoted in yesterday’s Derry Journal: "I wanted him dead. But there’s no threat from me to James McClean now, although I can’t be held responsible for what other people may do."

Lachey, who described himself on twitter as a "6ft 3 ex army lad" sent a threat against McClean to Sinn Féin newspaper, An Phoblacht.

"Too right he deserves to be shot dead," Lachey had written, "+ body dragged past the cenotaph!

"I think he’s a f***ing disgrace. I know I’ll end up in trouble and maybe in prison over this but I’m willing to go to court, that’s how strongly I feel."

Further criticism for McClean came from Northern Ireland international Warren Feeney, who wrote in the Sunday Life that he "cringed" when he heard about the poppy episode.

"He’s becoming better known for his behaviour off the pitch than for his considerable skills on it," Feeney wrote.

"It’s a pity because he’s obviously a talented player. At the same time, it makes me glad he elected to play for the Republic and not us... [McClean’s decision] was an anti-British gesture, yet here he is making a very good living from playing in the Premier League in Britain. His action was a snub to the memory of brave men and women, his club and its fans who pay his wages."