James McClean has landed himself in hot water after posting a controversial image on Instagram.
The photo, subsequently deleted, shows the Ireland international wearing a balaclava and sitting in front of two of his children, with the caption: ‘Today’s school lesson – history’ and an accompanying laughing emoji.
The Derry native has come in for repeated abuse in football grounds in England for his refusal to wear a poppy but earlier this year said the situation had “simmered right down” after the authorities began taking belated but decisive action to deal with the problem.
McClean had previously been critical of what he saw as the FA’s lack of meaningful support but, following their decision to charge Barnsley over chants directed at the player last November — and with Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield launching investigations into similar abuse by sections of their own support — the Stoke City winger reported at the end of January that he had noticed a significant improvement on the ground.
Praising Stoke for their support, McClean revealed that he had taken part in a meeting at the club’s training ground which was attended by the EFL, Kick It Out, the PFA, the FA, and Staffordshire police.
“I was asked the other day in a room with all the powers-that-be what I would like to achieve from this,” he said, speaking at the end of January.
“And I’m not trying to sound like some sort of big hero, but if I have to be the fall guy for young Irish footballers coming through, so they don’t have to suffer this, then I’m happy to do that.”