Belfast Telegraph

McClean vows to star for Sunderland

By Peter Hutcheon

Sunderland winger James McClean has made securing a place in the starting line-up his number one priority for the new year.

The former Derry City player has been on the bench for all three Premier League games since Martin O’Neill took over the reins, although he was disappointed not to come on during Wednesday evening’s 3-2 win over QPR at Loftus Road.

“After coming on in the previous two games it was disappointing not to get a chance on Wednesday,” he said. “But it was a great result for the lads to get.

“We were looking really good at 2-0 up but we gave away a sloppy couple of goals but we showed great character to come back and win it late on.

“The manager has come in and given everyone a new sense of belief at the club and that’s showing in the results that we’ve had.

“Hopefully now we can go on a really good run of results and climb up the table.”

O’Neill took the time to publicly praise McClean after his first appearance in a Sunderland shirt in his first game in charge when he played his part in their 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers.

The Ulsterman said McClean showed great promise but still had work to do and the winger has no problem with that assessment.

“I knew when I came over here that I had to work hard and move up a level and I think I have done that,” he says. “Training every day and with the calibre of players who are here, I feel that I’m improving all the time.

“The next step for me is to get a start and that’s what I’m really pushing hard for. If the manager decides I’m to start then I’m ready for that whenever he calls on me.

“He’s told me that it’s going well so far and to keep it going, things like that.

“But I know that myself, one game doesn’t make a player. I only had 20 minutes against Blackburn but it went well and it showed I can rise to that level.

“But it’s up to me to push on now and work hard and improve each week.”

McClean has said that if he goes on to play international football, he wants to represent the Repub

lic of Ireland, but insists that it is far from his mind at the moment.

“I just want to concentrate on playing for Sunderland and doing the best that I can there,” he said.

“As far as the international scene goes I’m not even looking at it at the moment.”

McClean is home in Derry for a couple of days but will spend Christmas Day back in England.

“It’s nice to get home and see a few family and friends but when you sign up for a big club like Sunderland you know the commitments you are taking on,” he said. “And I’m not complaining about that. I’ve fitted in at Sunderland much quicker than I thought I would and I’ve got a great apartment and get on well with the lads. It couldn’t have worked out better.”

He does, though, keep an eye on developments at Derry City and is saddened to see his old boss Stephen Kenny on the verge of a move to Shamrock Rovers.

“There’s plenty of rumours about players going at City and it looks like the manager is going as well,” he said. “I hope it all works out well because I’ll always have Derry City in my heart.”

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