McClean: call up caps crazy year
SUNDERLAND sensation James McClean believes going to Euro 2012 would be "out of this world" but is just concentrating on keeping working hard for Martin O'Neill and now Giovanni Trapattoni.
The imposing left-winger has taken the Premier League by storm since coming on in the Black Cats' stunning comeback win over Blackburn last December, delighting fans on Wearside with his physical approach and direct running.
Since then he has gone from strength-to-strength, scoring four goals in 14 games and contributing to Sunderland's march up the table and their qualification for the last eight of the FA Cup.
Such has been his meteoric rise to prominence over the last two months that Giovanni Trapattoni could no longer ignore the exciting 22-year-old, to McClean's delight.
"The call-up came as a major shock to me. I certainly wasn't expecting it as I wasn't in the original squad. But I'm not complaining, I'm just delighted and can't wait for the opportunity," he said.
"It's another dream come true for me. I left Derry City to join Sunderland last summer and it's really worked out for me so far.
"I believe I have got to keep working hard at the Stadium of Light and do all in my power to stay in the first team.
"To have been called up for the friendly international in the Aviva Stadium is another big step. To be honest, it's come about very quickly but I don't see that as a problem.
"To go to the Euros with Ireland would be out of this world for me but, to be perfectly honest, I'm not even thinking about that at the moment."
Ironically, McLean had just woken from a slumber when his international dreams began to come true.
"I was actually half asleep and my phone was going mad with text messages," says the 22-year-old.
"People were wishing me well, and telling me to check Sky Sports News as soon as possible. So I got out of bed, went downstairs and turned on the TV. Then I saw on the breaking news bar that I was called up.
"It's the greatest honour any player can achieve and I'm looking forward to linking up with the squad at the weekend."
"I've come a long way in one year," he admits.
"It's crazy to think how much of a difference a year can make. This time last year, I was really down and seemed to be getting setback after setback.
"I had a hip-flexor injury before pre-season and then I missed most of pre-season because of a torn hamstring. To be actually able to look back on that time, and see where I am now, it's unreal."
"It (the call-up) means everything to me, my family and my friends. My phone has been crazy all day with people wishing me well and telling me how proud they are of me, and I just want to do them all proud."
McClean was disappointed not to have made the original squad, but after the FAI received FIFA clearance to switch allegiances from the North to the Republic, Trap decided to bring in the Derry native having assured him that he was part of his future plans.
"Obviously I was very disappointed with not being picked when the squad was announced first. I spoke with him (Trapattoni) the night before the announcement, and he told that he was impressed with how I was doing.
"I really appreciated that, because it's not every day you have a person of his calibre on the phone telling you you're doing great."
Derby's Paul Green has also been rewarded for some impressive displays in the Championship with a call-up.