James McClean pays tribute to 'great hero' Martin McGuinness

Republic of Ireland international James McClean has lauded Martin McGuinness as a hero.

McClean was born in Mr McGuinness' native Derry.

He courted controversy over his refusal to wear a poppy on his shirt when he played for Sunderland in November 2012 but revealed he always had the former deputy first minister's backing.

James McClean pays tribute to 'great hero' Martin McGuinness

He posted on social media: "You will be sorely missed Martin, a great leader, a great hero and above all a great man."

He said he looked up to the former Sinn Fein leader.

"A man that has done so much for Irish people and Irish people's freedom right to the very end.

"He was also a good friend and someone I had the pleasure of having a good relationship with.

"A man I met so many times, had the privilege to share many a great conversation with, a man that always text me before games wishing me luck.

"A man that through the well-documented tough times off the field always let me know how brave I was standing by my beliefs, that I never was alone because I had his support and backing always."

McClean has claimed he was vilified by Sunderland's supporters over his stance on the poppy.

In 2015 McClean, now a West Brom player, appeared to turn his back on the British national anthem during a West Brom pre-season friendly in the US.

Having played seven times for Northern Ireland at under-21 level, McClean, an Irish Catholic, also caused controversy in 2011 when he committed to the Republic.

READ MORE: Ireland defender Shane Duffy tweets response to criticism over Martin McGuinness tribute

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