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Republic of Ireland v Georgia: Confident James McClean pledges to repay faith shown by Martin O'Neill

By Cian Tracey

Published 05/10/2016

Raring to go: James McClean training with the Republic in Dublin yesterday
Raring to go: James McClean training with the Republic in Dublin yesterday

A wry smile breaks across the face of James McClean as he bats away the notion of tempering his aggression in order to be more trusted by his managers.

McClean has always had a close relationship with Martin O'Neill. After all, it was O'Neill who handed him his Premier League debut in his first game in charge of Sunderland.

Going into the Euros, McClean was still largely looked at as an impact player off the bench, but by the time the Republic's tournament ended in Lyon, the Derry native had started, and indeed impressed, in the two crucial games against Italy and France.

Returning to West Brom, McClean's confidence was high and, although he found himself on the bench for the club's opening two league games, he wasn't about to bang down Tony Pulis' door demanding answers.

He has since won back his place, starting four of the Baggies' last five games, and as he looks ahead to the World Cup double header against Georgia and Moldova he has similar intentions of earning a place in O'Neill's starting XI.

McClean plays on the edge and, as he explains, he isn't ever going to change the style of play that has gotten him this far.

"I think if anything I have a bit of an unfair reputation," McClean maintains.

"I've been sent off twice in my career; one was rescinded. I think that's not bad for someone who seems to be a loose cannon running into tackles. I think I have an unfair reputation.

"It's always been my game. It's all or nothing. I just give my all. That's all you can do. Play as best you can and the manager seems to be pleased. I'll not change anything."

There is a sense that McClean feels that his time has arrived in a green jersey.

"I'm raring to go and hopefully this campaign is one where I play a lot more from the start," he said.

With O'Neill desperately short of striking options for the visit of Georgia tomorrow and the trip to Moldova on Sunday, McClean has already been mentioned as a possible option.

O'Neill's influence on McClean's career has been crucial for him to get to where he is today and he is eager to continue to repay the faith that his fellow Derry man has shown in him.

"Hopefully I've done enough to make it hard (for O'Neill) to leave me out," he said.

"He's similar to Stephen Kenny (McClean's manager at Derry City).

"He puts his arm around me and makes me feel like a good player. He gives me that confidence when I go out on the pitch.

"It's the same as Tony Pulis at West Brom. I've been lucky in the sense where I've had a few good managers which has been really good for me. I'm a confidence player.

"If I'm feeling confident, I produce my best form. Those three have given me that. It's up to me to repay that and hopefully that's what I do."

The aim now is to start his fourth consecutive competitive game for the Republic and McClean typically pulled no punches about what is required tomorrow and Sunday.

"There's no two ways about it, we need six points," admitted McClean.

Playing his part in helping the Republic achieve those two wins would go a long way to proving that he can indeed be trusted on the big stage.

Belfast Telegraph

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