herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

McClean keen to set foot on road to Brazil

HE'S only played 14 minutes of competitive action in a green shirt but James McClean is keen to lay the ghost of Euro 2012 to rest and help Ireland on their way to Brazil 2014.

Irish fans will be hoping that the 23-year-old's fledgling international career blossoms as quickly as his club career when Ireland kick-off their world cup journey in Kazakhstan in September.

Before that game, Ireland take on Serbia in an August friendly and there is widespread agreement among commentators that the Derry native must be among the starting XI.

With Germany currently tearing up Euro 2012 with an unblemished record and Sweden inspired by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, McClean knows that his side will have it all to do to secure a top-two finish.

“We have to do our best to qualify,” he said. “Germany are flying at the minute and Sweden are a tough side but there are other good teams there also and we know it's not going to be easy.

Disaster

“But we have to take confidence into it and believe that we can qualify. The World Cup is the biggest stage in the world and you can show what you can do. I want to be there with Ireland.

” If we do make it to Rio in two years time McClean will certainly be looking for a massive improvement from the disaster that was Poland and the Ukraine.

A cameo appearance in a game which Fernando Torres had already put to bed was not the sum of McClean's ambitions for this summer's tournament but he stands by Giovanni Trapattoni's decision to play the players that brought qualification.

“It was great to get my competitive debut against Spain but on a personal level I was disappointed not to get more playing time,” he added. “I always thought I would get a run-out at some stage.

Disappointed

“I was disappointed when I didn't get the start against Spain because, just like any player, you want to play as many minutes as possible.

“When the manager told me I was coming on during the Spain match it was obviously exciting, but it was no surprise that he didn't make changes because he said that he was going to use the players that had got Ireland there.

“It was disappointing but understandable that he stuck with the players.

” Few players begin their international career with such incredible goodwill and support from the fans. A standing ovation as he made his way onto the field for his first cap against the Czech Republic in February was something even Trapattoni in his long years involved in football had never experienced.

“It's nice because it means they have high expectations of you and have confidence in you. The bigger the challenge the more I enjoy it,” said McClean. “Hopefully as we go on I can get more playing time and repay the confidence they've shown in me.”

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