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James McClean Bites Back At Graeme Souness' Poppy Criticism

James McClean Bites Back At Graeme Souness' Poppy Criticism
By Eoin Harrington
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Once again, James McClean's decision not to wear a poppy for Remembrance Day has caused great consternation across the water.

McClean has been subjected to sectarian abuse from rival English football fans throughout his career due to his decision not to wear the commemorative poppy.

He explained recently his reasoning for refusing to wear a poppy, which commemorates British soldiers who died in the fight for freedom. McClean said that the actions of British soldiers in his native Derry on Bloody Sunday, when 14 civilians were killed by soldiers in 1972, prevented him from abiding by the message of the poppy.

Wigan winger McClean was booed once again during Saturday's game against Swansea, and talkSPORT pundit Graeme Souness spoke out against his decision last week.

Jim White of talkSPORT has now revealed that McClean reached out to him to directly bite back at Souness' criticism.

James McClean responds to Graeme Souness criticism

Despite the shocking sectarian abuse suffered by James McClean at Sunderland last month, and the boos he received from the crowd on Saturday at Swansea, Graeme Souness has no sympathy for the Irish star.


Souness also skimmed over the fact that McClean's family are now being impacted by the public outcry, when he criticised the Derryman on talkSPORT recently:


It’s not nice for his wife or his kid, it is totally wrong that him and his family are being threatened. That’s abhorent.

But it will just be keyboard warriors and village idiots. But you also have to understand that 10,000 Irish soldiers lost their lives in the Second World War – and I think it’s right we remember them.

You know what side of the fence I’m on. I managed a Protestant institution in Glasgow Rangers and we were royalists. Going back a month, there was a small element at several football grounds up and down the country that rejoiced in the death of our Queen. That’s unacceptable.

There is nothing the FA can do about that, but that happened. So James has to get on with it.

talkSPORT themselves have now revealed that McClean was in fact listening to Souness' comments, and reached out to the show's host Jim White to respond.

24 September 2022; James McClean of Republic of Ireland during UEFA Nations League B Group 1 match between Scotland and Republic of Ireland at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Given all of the abuse he has suffered, it would be understandable for McClean to be angry with the routine dismissal of his political stance by Souness, but he was measured in his response, which read:

Jim, can you tell Mr Souness with regards to his ‘get on with it’ advice – I got on with it for a very long time until it became not just me but my family.

It is one thing taking abuse, but when your family gets involved, it means a totally different thing.

I would suggest if he’s not in a position to talk about it as I am, then he doesn’t appreciate the level of abuse I have to endure.

Souness responded to McClean with a brief addition:


I accept that. Once it impacts on your family, it must be very difficult. But this is something he has to deal with.

This was his choice. Maybe he should go back to when he first made this stance, maybe someone said, ‘This will not just be about you going forward’. And that is the case.

James McClean has regularly called for the English FA to do more to combat sectarian abuse, to little or no avail. Souness' disappointing comments show the lack of understanding of a complicated and nuanced situation in Northern Ireland, with McClean merely the most outspoken on this matter.


For what it's worth, the organisers of the poppy programme, the Royal British Legion, have publicly backed McClean's decision not to wear one, stating that the very decision is a symbol of the freedom the poppy is intended to represent.

SEE ALSO: Quiz: Name The Top Scorers From Each FIFA World Cup In The 21st Century

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