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  • "I Was A Mammy's Boy" - It's Clear James McClean Showed Great Maturity Against Austria

"I Was A Mammy's Boy" - It's Clear James McClean Showed Great Maturity Against Austria

"I Was A Mammy's Boy" - It's Clear James McClean Showed Great Maturity Against Austria
By Conor Neville Updated

After the initial burst of excitement following his emergence at Sunderland, many supporters quickly wrote off James McClean as a one-note player. He was a lung-bursting, hard-working winger who was sadly devoid of trickery or flair.

The most striking aspect of McClean's game was his propensity for picking up yellow cards. In fact, before the Ireland-Georgia game last year, Balls.ie wrote a post-match report which was published two hours before kick-off. Dedicated readers might remember it for we (quite understandably) didn't shut up about it for several days. A spooky number of our predictions came through and we were inundated with requests from people asking for that week's lotto numbers.

One of our predictions concerned James McClean.

In actual fact, we got this prediction wrong. McClean only came on in the 74th minute of the Georgia game and was booked about 45 seconds later. We actually overestimated the length of time it would take for him to get booked.

It's early days in this campaign. And we don't want to make too many dramatic leaps here. We have considerable anecdotal evidence that prior to his first goal in Moldova, many supporters were still cursing McClean and demanding that he be hauled off.

But there is growing evidence from the past three games - including the Georgia match - which indicates that McClean is becoming one of Ireland's best and most important performers.

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McClean was on Off the Ball this evening and he admitted that defenders had grown wise to him and that he needed to develop his game.

I've been in England now four or five years. I'm learning more about myself and my game everyday. I feel I'm a better player now than I ever was. I understand the games a lot better. I'm confident. I'm playing well. I'm playing week in week out in the Premier League against high quality opposition. I'm testing myself on the international stage against high quality opposition.

It's something that I'm really enjoying and thriving on. It's giving me a lot of confidence. And when I went through on goal on Saturday... it's (learning more) giving me a lot of composure as well, probably early on in my career I would have snatched at that.

While previously stereotyped as cartoonishly impulsive, his decision to effectively substitute himself by signalling to the bench that his back injury was causing problems showed an impressive maturity.

Last 15-20 minutes, it stated tightening up and I didn't want to be a liability. I didn't want to be a liability, I didn't be someone who because it was that tight couldn't track a run and they end up scoring from it so I thought it was time to come off.

He talked about the initial wave of enthusiasm which greeted his emergence and which was so baffling Giovanni Trapattoni.

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If I'm being completely honest I'm a lot better player than I was when I broke onto the scene. Back then it was like anything, you've this new kid on the scene doing well, it was something fresh, something new and everyone jumps on the bandwagon and everyone gets excited. It was always at some stage going to fade away. I was always going to have that dip in form. You're not always going to bomb past players. Because players aren't stupid. You're playing against world class players. They're going to suss you out.

And he talked about his status as a late bloomer in professional football, someone who only broke into the Derry City team at eighteen at a time when many other players are playing for reserve teams in England. He credited David Meyler, then a teammate at Sunderland, for helping him out in those lonely times.

My education was street football. I didn't join Derry City until I was eighteen. I didn't have the coaching, the setup, the platform that players in England had from an early age. But look, I wouldn't change my football education for anything. I grew up very quickly there. I was playing League of Ireland football which is very tough, very physical from an early age. And that put me in great stead when I did go across.

I went over on my own. I wasn't put in digs with any players. I was on my own. I had no friends because I didn't know anyone. I have to give a lot of credit to David Meyler. Because Meyler was the same age as me at Sunderland and he really looked after me. Meyler was already established in the first team and he really looked after me and I can't thank him enough for that. Being on your own, it taught you a lot. My wife would tell you now, I was useless. But it taught me how to cook. Look, I'm the first to admit I'm a mammy's boy. My mam did everything for me. But it was good for me being on my own.

McClean's aim, he said, is not merely to be a Premiership player but a really good Premiership player. Not merely someone who is praised for their work rate but someone who can add so much more.

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Listen to the interview below:

Read more: "First Big Away Win Since 1987!" - Breaking Down Ireland's Curious Away Record Since The Late '80s

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