James McClean has again hinted at a potential return to boyhood club Derry City next season, 12 years after he left the side to join Sunderland in 2011.
The Republic of Ireland defender started his career at Derry City, where he played 79 times, scoring 16 goals for the club. McClean made his League of Ireland debut with his home club in 2008 and in 2010 helped secure their promotion to the Premier Division, scoring 8 goals in 33 appearances.
After that season, McClean received serious interest from English teams, with several bids from Peterborough United and Everton before he signed for Sunderland in 2011.
McClean currently plays in the Championship with Wigan and has scored 10 goals from 40 appearances for The Latics. His one-year contract was renewed after securing promotion last season, but it looks as if James McClean has his sights set on a return to Ireland after his contract expires at the end of the 2022-23 season.
James McClean hints at potential return to Derry City
Rumours of his move back to Derry have been fuelled by his comments on social media, as he commented under Jack Byrne's Instagram post celebrating Rovers three-in-a-row ate the weekend.
'Congrats bud, coming for ya next year tho'
McClean's future at Wigan has been the subject of intrigue over the last week or so. According to repost in the Daily Mail, Wigan were late in paying wages this month for the third time, leaving a number of players unhappy and considering their position at the club.
Rumours of James McClean going
back to hometown club Derry City.
This might speed up a return…
EFL clubs and financial issues
go hand in hand, another example. https://t.co/30Tb5hjtGg
— Kieran (@TheIrishKieran) October 25, 2022
McClean also shared a post on instagram last week where he teased a Derry return.
James McClean has hinted on Instagram that a return to the League of Ireland will happen
“Last Derry City jersey (for now)”
— IrishPropaganda🇮🇪⚽️ (@IrishPropaganda) October 24, 2022
McClean's return to Derry would be hugely significant both for the club and for the league, as the Republic of Ireland defender is still at the top of his game. His return to the League of Ireland can only have positive results as Derry City will look to close the gap to Shamrock Rovers after pushing them close this year.
Meanwhile, his potential return speaks to the growing quality of the league in recent years, with Irish sides featuring in more European fixtures than ever before. His quality and experience would be a huge boost for Derry City and for the league, with ticket sales expected to rise significantly if he is to return.
McClean has 94 Ireland caps, and with his good form at Wigan, it seems certain he'll reach the century mark in 2023. What club he'll be playing for remains to be seen.