Belfast Telegraph

James McClean sent supportive text message from FA over crowd abuse

Appreciative: James McClean
Appreciative: James McClean
David Kelly

By David Kelly

James McClean has revealed that a significant figure from the Football Association sent him a text message eight days ago which encouraged him to report crowd abuse.

The revelation from the Londonderry-born footballer, who plays for the Republic of Ireland, coincides with the FA's unprecedented decision to investigate an allegation of "discriminatory behaviour" directed at the player during Stoke's clash against Barnsley last Saturday.

The FA has previously investigated online abuse directed towards McClean, who hails from the Creggan estate and refuses on principle to wear a poppy in commemoration of Remembrance Sunday.

But this is the first instance in which they have broadened their scope to include specific abuse during a match.

"For the first time ever, I got a text message from the FA showing support on the eve of the game, so that's a first one," said McClean, speaking ahead of Ireland's crucial Euro 2020 qualifier against Denmark on Monday.

"Maybe the tide is turning. I appreciate the text, it said if there were any issues, I should report it. It was the first time that such support was shown.

"It's a long time coming and it's something I appreciate. I was shocked because it was a random number. As much as I was shocked, I appreciate it as well.

"It came from somebody high up. That is why I was so shocked that it actually came."

McClean has criticised the FA for their double-standards in differentiating between sectarian and racist abuse but is unsure whether this week's developments mark a change of culture.

"Maybe, maybe not. I think if you bang on the door long enough eventually someone is going to answer," he said. "Maybe it took me calling it out a few times for them to respond. But they responded, so fair play."

McClean had previously accused the FA of turning a "blind eye" to the abuse he had received from fans since he first took his stance in 2011.

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