Belfast Telegraph

Stoke City boss Michael O'Neill hits out over sectarian abuse of James McClean

Stoke’s manager Michael O’Neill
Stoke’s manager Michael O’Neill

By Aidan O'Hara

Stoke City boss Michael O'Neill has hit out after a match was stopped when Huddersfield Town fans launched sectarian abuse at his Londonderry-born winger James McClean.

O'Neill, also the Northern Ireland manager, was furious at the treatment of the Republic of Ireland international, who has been consistently targeted by terrace bigots over his refusal to wear a poppy because of the British Army's Bloody Sunday massacre in his native Derry.

The second half was briefly halted by a tannoy announcement at Huddersfield's John Smith's Stadium saying "racist chanting is affecting the game and will not be tolerated", with McClean immediately applauding the announcement.

Ref James Linington spoke to both managers before the announcement, and afterwards O'Neill insisted those responsible need to be punished.

"Things are said when James goes and takes a corner, home or away," said O'Neill after a 5-2 victory that lifted Stoke out of the relegation zone.

"It's clear that the things that were said were of a sectarian nature and there's no need for that in any stadium.

"James is a player who's particularly targeted for this and has been consistently. It will not affect James. James is mentally tough.

Stoke’s James McClean
Stoke’s James McClean

"People have to be held accountable for their behaviour when they come to a stadium.

"It's not something we want to be consistently talking about - sectarianism or racism or whatever.

"We want to be talking about the game, because there was seven goals here." McClean was subjected to similar abuse from opposing supporters during Stoke's home game on Boxing Day against Sheffield Wednesday, although no announcement was made on that occasion.

Huddersfield manager Danny Cowley condemned the incident and said the club would investigate "and make sure the people involved in it are duly punished".

"There's no place for discrimination of any type, is there? We're in the 21st century in 2020," he said.

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