Saturday 22 September 2018

McClean now has Ireland's eye for goal

TOP Scorer, with a paltry six goals, for a side who were relegated for the second year in a row, is not the stuff to boast about, James McClean admits.

But his record as Ireland's top scorer in 2014, with five goals in the calendar year, is the sort of statistic that McClean carries with pride and intends to take into the busy summer period with games against England and Scotland.

"As a wide-man you want to chip in with as many goals as possible. I didn't score in my first 23 caps so it was kind of on my mind to break my duck," said McClean, the Derry lad back in has native City recently as he showed up at the Brandywell on Saturday to demonstrate his support for Mark Farren, his one-time Derry team-mate who is battling with cancer and has been the subject of a massive fund-raising campaign.

"Since I have done I've been more at ease in front of goal and it's kind of taken off a bit. If I can add as many goals as possible it will help the team as well. Fingers crossed I can."

McClean is itching to play against England but it's all about the Scotland date. "There are no two ways about it - it's make or break really. The Poland game was crucial. We came out of it with a point, we'd have liked three but it didn't happen," he says.

"Against Scotland we owe them one. We didn't perform in Glasgow and hopefully we can put that right and get three points. It would set us up nicely."

The June internationals offers McClean a chance for redemption after such a poor season for his club, as personal awards for McClean (club player and player's player of the year) rang hollow.

"Personally the season was OK and I managed to pick up a few individual awards, top scorer but with just six goals, it would have been nicer to pick them up under better circumstances," he says, stressing that League One football is not on the menu.

"I am 26 now so this is going to be one of the most crucial moves, not just in terms of my career but my life as well, my family. There will be no rushed decisions," added McClean, who has been training with Peter Huttons Derry side to stay in shape.

McClean was at the Brandywell for a game in honour of Farren on Saturday, where an Irish League XI managed by Michael O'Neill overcame Martin O'Neill's Derry City XI.

Due to the risk of injury, Wigan did not allow McClean play but the Ireland international, who has already made a substantial financial contribution to the Farren fund, was there to lend his non-playing support. And for McClean, the efforts made on behalf of Farren underlines the real side of a League of Ireland which is constantly derided by outsiders.

"It just shows you the character of the lads in this league," said McClean.

"The league gets a lot of negativity - and a lot of it probably rightly so with facilities and that - but when it comes down to things like this it is a testament to the players in this league. Not just the players in this league, but the ones in this country and abroad."

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