O'Neill: McClean deserves call-up
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has urged Ireland counterpart Giovanni Trapattoni not to forget James McClean as he draws up his plans for Euro 2012.
The 22-year-old Derry-born winger, who was signed by O'Neill's predecessor Steve Bruce, has been a massive hit since being thrust into the limelight by O'Neill shortly before Christmas.
McClean continued his spectacular emergence with a match-winning strike at Stoke on Saturday as speculation mounted that he could be included in Trapattoni's squad for Ireland's friendly against the Czech Republic later this month. O'Neill said: "My own view is that he would be a genuine asset to them."
Having seen him handle the switch from Derry City to the Barclays Premier League without batting an eyelid, O'Neill is convinced the youngster has what it will take to make the step into senior international football.
O'Neill added: "I don't think he would have a problem with it. I can understand Trapattoni being very loyal to a group of players that he's worked with for the last two years and who have seen him through.
"But I think that they would have to have a serious look at James and the form he is showing, but I do stress it is my own view. I am not telling Trapattoni how to conduct his affairs, which he is doing pretty well without my help."
McClean's direct brand of wing play has made him an instant hit at the Stadium of Light and he is rapidly establishing himself as a crowd favourite as the Black Cats' recovery under O'Neill continues apace. His manager knows there will come a time when, as a young and inexperienced player, he will suffer a natural dip in form, but he has been thrilled with his contribution to date.
O'Neill added: "It's given him encouragement to go and take players on and play his natural game, and he is thriving on it. He has been exceptional for us. He has got into the team, he has held his place on merit and is growing in confidence and it's great to see, it really is.
"What he has done, the level he has been playing at and the consistency he has been showing has been truly amazing. I have been pleasantly surprised by it, it hasn't dropped. But of course there will be a dip, there will be a dip in his form, there will be a dip in the team's form.
"We will lose a game, we will lose two matches and we will not know where the next point is coming from. All of that there is around the corner and it's how we react eventually to that again."