McClean: it was my call to quit the cats
Winger insists he forced Wearside exit and doesn't see Latics as backward step
JAMES McCLEAN wants a fresh start. It's very obvious to anyone who talks to him that he's had enough extraneous interference in his football and while his recent move to Wigan is a demotion in terms of class, it's perfect for his agenda.
First off, it was interesting to hear that he went in to see Paolo di Canio before the end of last season to look for a move and that far from Sunderland wanting him to leave, it was McClean's own motivation which brought about his departure.
"It was coming for a while. I know it's been said that Sunderland got rid of me, that they wanted to sell me, but that's not actually the case," said McClean, clearly very anxious to get that point across.
Back in June, McClean exhibited less than warmth when asked about Di Canio, so it was something of a surprise to hear him praise the controversial Italian.
"Last season I went in to see the manager, sat down and told him the truth – which is that I wanted to leave. And, fair play to him, he understood and they didn't stand in my way. I just needed to play regular football and I felt it was time for a fresh start and a clean slate. And I think I've got that now."
Was there any trepidation about knocking on Di Canio's door?
"Well, like I said, he was understanding. We had a good chat and he tried to persuade me to stay, which was obviously nice to hear, but for me it was time to move on. And the club then tried to help me get a move as well, fair play to them.
"No, no. Like I said, last season, as soon as we got safe, I went in and spoke to the manager and told him that I wanted to leave and told him the reasons why. Regardless of who came in I was on the move anyway."
As an hors d'oeuvres for his new life, the Community Shield at Wembley wasn't a bad introduction and McClean is also looking forward to European football with Wigan this season.
"It was good to get some playing time under my belt. I'd done a full pre-season with Sunderland but you can do all the running you want and it doesn't compare with the sharpness you get from game time. So it was a nice way to start off with Wigan.
"Wigan is about me enjoying my football again. It's not about the money. You're in it for the love of the game. I know it's an old cliché but it's true.
"Wigan is a club looking forward. I know they got relegated last season, but the manager has assembled a good squad and there's Europe after the FA Cup win. It was the right move at this stage in my career.
"You just have to look at the squad. They have signed a few from the Premier League like Leon Barnett and Grant Holt. It's a great squad."
One man who might not be around that squad too long is James McCarthy, but McClean pulled up short when he was asked was there any transfer gossip. Bad enough to get in trouble when you're talking about yourself never mind someone else.
"That's all James's business," he said with a smile which shows that he has finally absorbed some lessons about when to talk and when to keep schtum.
"He's a good lad. He's a tremendous player and he's been in the Premier League for how many years now? It's James's decision."
McCarthy's expected return to the Premier League highlights the step down McClean has made but he doesn't quite see it that way.
"Obviously from the Premier League to the Championship, there is a step down but I don't see it that way. It's maybe a step down in leagues but two steps forward in my career. Hopefully we can come back at the first time of asking."
McClean's very public problems with a rash approach to electronic media and the associated issues of Remembrance Day poppies are behind him now and the fact that Owen Coyle's background gives him a deep understanding of the sensitivities involved was not a decisive factor in choosing Wigan over the other offers which came his way.
"Ah, that wasn't a factor at all. I just came down, met him and he put across just how much he wanted me. And I think that was a major factor in me going there. Last year I lost a lot of confidence and wasn't enjoying my football. I think it's well-publicised everything that happened. So I wanted a clean slate and, having met the manager, the fact that he really wanted me was a major factor in me going there.
"There was one from the Premier League which I'll not name, a few from the Championship and there was one north of the border that was well-publicised. We spoke to all the clubs but speaking to Owen Coyle, like I said, was a major factor in me going there."
International football and the need to play football every week was also a key factor in the move from Sunderland.
"Of course, that's important as well. It's a World Cup year and we have a good chance of getting to the World Cup. But even beyond that, I need to be playing regular football no matter what. So I'm delighted with the move and looking forward to getting back to enjoying my football.
"Representing my country is the most important thing I can do as a footballer whether it be 90 minutes or 10. I want to play as much as I can. It would be nice to get a start but just nice to get another cap."