Belfast Telegraph

Stoke City boss reveals James McClean has received 'death threats' and 'packages in the post'

Stoke manager Gary Rowett has revealed that "packages" have been sent to the club addressed to James McClean.

During Stoke's match with Middlesbrough last weekend, the Irishman was abused by fans for not wearing a poppy on his shirt.

McClean took to social media and labelled those who abused him as "uneducated cavemen" before the FA warned him for using "an offensive word on social media".

The Players Association of Ireland and Show Racism the Red Card have since issued a statement supporting McClean and calling on the English FA to "investigate all incidents of anti-Irish discrimination".

Stoke boss Gary Rowett today revealed the extent of the abuse the Derryman has had to endure.

"In terms of the reaction from the away fans you know you're going to get some form of abuse and it's about containing yourself and not reacting at all really," said Rowett today in quotes reported by the Stoke Sentinel.

"When you have those beliefs you have to appreciate it's going to be a big situation on a weekend like that.

"When we spoke to James about it (his Instagram post), I think it was out of frustration and probably ill-judged, certainly criticising a minority of our fans is not the way to go. We've spoken to him about that and can't condone that.

"But when you understand the background to his belief and see that his family have had death threats, that his wife and kids have had abuse constantly, that he's been sent stuff in the post which I've seen recently from fans, you can understand in a way why he reacts. He's only human.

"We can't condone certain parts of those actions but we can understand some because the abuse is pretty bad.

"We will try to move forward. The club has spoken to James about it, it's not something we want to condone."

The Stoke boss added: "Early in the season we lost to Wigan and there was a majority who abused me, sometimes you have to not react to that.

"I don't want to get into the nature of it. My view is that everyone has freedom of speech and freedom to follow the path they want to follow. If you do that, you can't then react to the abuse or the criticism.

"James knows that. I think it was a heat of the moment thing and he knows he shouldn't have reacted."

Rowett added that he always knew the poppy would be an issue when he signed McClean but his only thought was what he could do on the pitch and is confident Stoke fans will see the best of McClean following recent injury setbacks.

"I always knew that there was always a chance that this type of signing might create a stir but I will reiterate what I said when I brought James to the club: it's about what I think he can do on the football pitch.

"I don't think we've seen the best of him due to his injury, due to a very fractured pre-season. What I would like to do is to try to get the very best out of him to spur us on to where we need to be.

"I appreciate there's going to be a very mixed reaction to whatever decision I make but I stand behind him as a footballer and I stand behind him as one of our squad members.

"I will work as hard as I can to get him playing for Stoke City and showing the desire and the drive you could argue has been lacking in this team for 18 months."

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