Ex-Northern Ireland international Gareth McAuley has said that his former West Bromwich Albion teammate James McClean ‘doesn’t help himself at times’ in regard to the abuse he has received during his career.
Earlier this week, McClean spoke out and questioned why his teammates and the footballing authorities had not supported him in the way they had so rightly supported the Black Lives Matter movement.
He condemned the racism that the likes of Wilfried Zaha and David McGoldrick had suffered but questioned whether one form of discrimination was held to a higher bearing than another.
However, in his column in the Belfast Telegraph, McAuley first stated that he believes McClean’s “actions, decisions and outbursts,” rather than his being Irish, has “turned football fans against him.”
“My old pal and West Brom team-mate James McClean had a point when he stated on social media last week that he is probably the most abused footballer in England.
“I’ve played alongside James and heard the derogatory comments launched in his direction from the stands, never mind read the abuse dished out to him on the internet…
“While Zaha is being targeted because of the colour of his skin, something he has absolutely no control over, James is not being singled out because he is Irish. Thousands of Irish players over the years have been welcomed into the professional game in England.
“It’s James’ actions, decisions and outbursts that have turned football fans, even from the clubs he plays for, against him.”
McAuley continued outlining examples of McClean’s behaviour which he branded ‘disrespectful’ explaining that he feels ‘at times, he really doesn’t help himself.’
“It was not helped when he proudly dressed up on Instagram in a balaclava to home school his kids. Joke or not, it was seriously insensitive.
“Then there was the time on a West Brom tour to the United States when James made sure he had his back turned to the Union Jack and subsequently the Stars and Stripes.
“It was noted by proud Baggies fans and not forgotten. Yet another sign of disrespect.
“James often points out that no one in the game stands up for him or affords him support, but he was offered help by the FA during his time at West Brom and refused to engage with football’s governing body because he said they hadn’t helped him out quickly enough in the past.
“At times, he really doesn’t help himself.
“James could easily have voiced his support for the Black Lives Matter sentiment and left it at that. Let others rally behind him. But I would also ask, what was he again doing on social media when he was banned by the club following his balaclava antics at the start of lockdown?”
McAuley, who has earned 80 caps for Northern Ireland, played alongside McClean for West Brom between 2015 and 2018. He also worked under McClean’s manager at Stoke City, Michael O’Neill at international level. The defender, who spent last season with Rangers, believes that O’Neill will want to move McClean on from the club this summer.
“Knowing Michael he will not want any further hassle and during the clear-out at Stoke, when the season finally finishes this week, I would say James will be one of the names at the top of the list for moving on.
“James is only 31, he would still have a few good years left in his career, but I fear with all the baggage and propaganda that comes with him, he may be untouchable.”