James McClean has said that while he “likes every single one of them”, he stands over his criticism of his Republic of Ireland team-mates for their reluctance to show support for him in the face of the discrimination he has experienced.
Earlier this week in a Facebook post, the Derryman sought to contrast football’s currently high-profile response to racism with its comparative silence on the sectarian abuse to which he has been subjected during his career in England.
McClean made no bones about condemning the recent racist abuse of his Irish teammate David McGoldrick and Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha as “vile” and “horrendous”.
But he went on to say that it left a sour taste in his mouth that he had “received more abuse than any other player during my nine years in England, whether that be death threats, bullets sent in the post, birthday cards, letters, etc. This is not a cry for sympathy but one to ask the question: what is the difference?”
And turning the spotlight on his international colleagues, he said: “I have seen some of my fellow Irish team-mates post a black square in support of anti-racism as well as post condemning the discrimination - and again rightly so.
“Have I ever seen any of them post a public condemnation of the discrimination I get which, funnily enough, is a discrimination against them also? That would be a no.”
McClean followed up his Facebook post with an interview on TalkSport, following which he now says he received messages of support – but not, he says, from his Irish teammates.
“If they feel offended they must feel a level of guilt,” he told BBC Radio Foyle. “To be honest, I’m not expecting calls off any of them but I stand by what I said.
“I understand the poppy situation, I know some people down South probably don’t have a full understanding of what happened up in the North and that’s fine. I’m not asking players not to wear a poppy, as the backlash is huge. I fully understand they don’t want the backlash and they want an easy life, I get that. I have no issue with that. But what I’m getting discriminated for also affects them, yet they stay quiet.
As much as I respect everything else, you can’t pick and choose what to get behind. That’s where I lose that little bit of respect when that happens.
“Look, I like every single one of them and never had an issue with any of them but it does hurt a little bit as I know for a fact if the roles were reversed I would 100 per cent back them. In that sense, that hurt a little.”
The Stoke winger also says that he has even considered early retirement as a result of the abuse and threats he has received.
“There are days you’re thinking of putting a date on retirement, and that’s not what you want to do. But there are times I’m thinking, ‘my kids are starting to get a bit older and they’re starting to go to games and starting to ask questions’. I don’t want them to hear it, first and foremost, and I don’t want to have to sit and explain to them why.
”It doesn’t affect me as much as it affects my family. Up until I had my first daughter I brushed it off and said I’d fight fire with fire. I’ve done it in the past and retaliated here and there. I’ve done a couple of things to wind up the situation.
”But I had my daughter and realised that I hadn’t really taken into consideration my mother’s feelings and my wife’s feelings. When you’re having bullets sent in the post and letters sent, it’s horrific abuse. It’s constant, every single day on social media.
“Some of the stuff said is unbelievable, and any self-respecting person wouldn’t accept it.”