Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill has warned rising star James McClean life in the Premier League is only going to get more difficult after handing him a new improved contract.
The 22-year-old, who joined the Black Cats from Derry City in a £350,000 summer move, has seen his initial three-year deal replaced by another which will keep him on Wearside until the summer of 2015.
McClean, who will get his latest chance to impress against struggling QPR today, has never looked back since bursting on to the scene as a substitute in O’Neill’s first game at the helm at the start of December, and his growing prominence was last month rewarded with a first senior Republic of Ireland cap.
However, his emergence has alerted opposing teams to the threat he poses, and O’Neill has warned him he faces fresh challenges ahead.
He said: “It’s not going to be all plain-sailing for him now, not just because he has been given a new contract.
“Now he will come up against top-quality full-backs, he will come up against people who are doubling up on him, and he has to find ways and means to be able to cope with those things and to be able to overcome them. That’s something he will have to learn.”
O’Neill added: “It’s been a meteoric rise for him because he’s come almost from nowhere — I don’t mean Derry City in that sense, I am talking about being here for a few months.’’
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