Stephen Vaughan feels that James McClean has become central to Martin O’Neill’s World Cup plans but the winger still has trouble keeping his temper in check.
Yesterday was great day for Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign. Wales, who many feared may run away with the group, dropped two points at home to Georgia. Martin O’Neill’s men were able to capitalise by beating Moldova 3-1 away from home.
McClean grabbed two goals on a night when he showed the myriad of aspects to both his game and his character. Long seen as a divisive figure in the English game due to his forthright political stance, to which he is entitled, McClean divides opinion among Irish fans too.
His work ethic, determination and honesty have always been appreciated by the fans; attributes that have helped him cement his place in Martin O’Neill’s starting eleven. McClean, along with Jonathan Walters and Shane Long, now sets the tone for the Irish team’s high press.
However the Derry native is often let down by his temperament and game intelligence. Too often he finds himself in the middle of needless altercations.
Last night, with the score at 3-1 and having bagged a brace, he was hacked down by one of the many frustrated Moldovans who had lost their discipline. He bound straight back to his feet to engage his assailant forehead-to-forehead in time honored football fashion.
With the score at 3-1 and the clock running down the smart move would be to take the free and have a little roll around before getting back up safe in the knowledge that you’ve made a massive contribution to your team picking up three invaluable points. McClean just doesn’t seem to have that in him.
Later in the game when it was Walters on the end of a ludicrously high Moldovan challenge, McClean couldn’t help but get involved again. Sticking up for your teammates is admirable but in these situations McClean had far more to lose than gain.
Moments like these pepper his career, even prompting his club manager Tony Pulis to question his intelligence after the Irishman taunted Sunderland fans last season.
The 27 year-old has always brought pace, power and aggression to the Irish side. At 27 he’s been around the block and is seen as one of the more senior members of the squad, but he needs to take more responsibility on the pitch for both himself and the team.
He had a pop at the Irish media (this usually means the RTÉ panel) during an interview with Sky Sports after last night’s match.
“We got a lot of flack after the Serbia game, a lot of flack after the Georgia game – I don’t know what it will be like tonight – unfairly so as well.
“The Irish press, especially, they need a reality check. We are not going to blow teams away, we know that. We’ve always been a team that works hard. Winning has never been enough. We’re happy to get a win tonight and we’re happy to be on seven points.”
Even after scoring two goals to earn Ireland three points, perhaps his crowning achievement in a green shirt, McClean refuses to take the readily available moral high-ground. Last night more-so than any other, McClean’s football did the talking, yet he just couldn’t leave it at that.
Ireland have come to rely on McClean’s contribution, two goals in a 3-1 competitive away win says more than enough.