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West Brom boss Tony Pulis 'warned James McClean over his national anthem snub'

By Eamonn MacDermott and Steven Alexander

Published 21/07/2015

James McClean has turned his back to the English flag during the national anthem before a West Brom match
James McClean has turned his back to the English flag during the national anthem before a West Brom match

Controversial footballer James McClean received a warning from West Brom manager Tony Pulis after he turned his back during the playing of the British national anthem before a match in America.

Reports suggest Pulis told his £1.5m June signing from Wigan that he needs to be more careful after the midfielder turned away from the Cross of St George and bowed his head while God Save the Queen played during the pre-season friendly in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Londonderry-born Republic of Ireland international, who has also refused to wear a remembrance poppy as it would "be a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles", drew a strong reaction on social media for his latest gesture.

Twitter user Amy Wiseman wrote: "James McClean... happy to live and earn in England, not happy to respect its traditions or beliefs." Another wrote: "While I'm a huge believer in freedom of speech/opinion, McClean should not bring his politics into football, no good will come of it."

And the Daily Telegraph's Luke Edwards called on the Irish international to leave England "if he hates it so much".

Edwards described McClean's snub as "insulting, stupid and hypocritical. It was an act of defiance that asks the question, if you do not like the British so much, because that is what your behaviour suggests, why have you spent the vast majority of your career living and working in England, the country at the heart of Britain's 'colonial power'?" he asked.

"McClean was trying to make a political point and while I would defend everybody's right to protest, as well as their freedom of expression, this was a disrespectful act that hints at something ugly in his views."

However, Olympic medal-winning boxer Paddy Barnes commended McClean for standing up for what he believes in.

"He's [McClean] being tortured online for this and other things he stands up for," the Belfast boxer said. McClean (26) was named man of the match by Albion's website after the game.

Attempts yesterday to speak to the footballer were fruitless.

The star himself posted a brief message on Twitter stating: "I don't need to say anything or will I either but maybe people should have a read of this man's article" - a reference to an article defending his stance on wearing the poppy and other issues.

Football writer Alexander Netherton defended McClean, stating that his stance was "logical and justified" given his background.

In a robust defence, Netherton said that "just as the English Press want passion from players in the Premier League at a time commercialism is stripping the soul out of the modern game, McClean is criticised for showing his".

The DUP's Gregory Campbell said McClean's actions showed "disrespect and discourtesy".

"He needs to keep his head down and play football, but what he shouldn't do while earning money from the UK is set himself up as a controversial pseudo-political figure, which is what he's doing," the MP said.

What next?

One fan has taken a light-hearted look at the controversy, penning a new football chant for Baggies fans to sing for Londonderry-born McClean:

God save our James McClean

Long live our James McClean

God save McClean

Send us victorious

His tricks are glorious

Long to score goals for us

God save McClean.

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