James McClean has long been recognised as a respected Premier League footballer who possesses a relentless engine and a work ethic to match. He may be quite a low-scoring winger, but his work rate and movement of the ball has been a major factor for each of his teams.
Now, however, the Republic of Ireland winger is facing some turbulence. Not only does he face punishment on the international stage, but he’s also set for another weak season for West Bromwich Albion.
FIFA probing McClean and O’Neil comments
‘James McClean, Irish winger.‘ by Michael Kranewitter (CC BY-SA 3.0 AT)
Following comments made by James McClean and manager Martin O’Neil about the officials in Ireland’s 1-1 draw with Austria on 11th June, FIFA have brought about disciplinary proceedings. Spanish referee David Fernandez Borbalan disallowed Shane Duffy’s late winning goal as well as not giving a penalty decision to Jon Walters when he was brought down in the Austrian box.
The result not only left McClean and O’Neil fuming, but it also stopped Ireland from moving to the top of Group D, with the Irish now sitting on equal points as leaders Serbia, with an inferior goal difference by two. O’Neil cited the disallowed Duffy goal as incorrect in a post-match interview, and McClean claimed that the referee was Austria’s “12th man.”
The duo could very well receive more than a slap on the wrist for their comments. With FIFA making a point of discipline and conduct towards referees, the two integral figures of the Irish team could miss out on some of their four remaining World Cup qualifiers.
Another weak domestic season on the cards
West Brom Stadium‘ by Mattd1991 (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Last season, West Bromwich Albion – with James McClean featuring on the left wing – got off to a great start, surging up the league and reaching the safety tally of 40 points with ease. But then it all fell apart, with the club only finishing with 45 points, achieving just one win and two draws in the last 12 games.
James McClean – now in his prime aged 28 – also saw a downturn last season, recording his lowest goal contributions (goals and assists) tally since he was a teenager playing for Derry City in the 2008/09 League of Ireland campaign. Being a hard working and boisterous winger, McClean isn’t known for his regular scoring, but his movement, willingness to move with the ball and start attacking moves gets the attack rolling. However, given West Brom’s lack of scoring threats, he ended with just two goals and three assists in 36 games in all competitions – just one goal and two assists in the Premier League.
For McClean to up his tally of goals and assists, West Brom need a legitimate scoring threat up the middle of the pitch – maybe even two – for the Irishman to play around or set up. Unfortunately, the Baggies aren’t linked to any, with central midfielders Stuart Armstrong at 4/1 and Joe Ledley at 2/1 on MrGreen Sports being West Brom’s closest transfer ties.
There have been rumours that West Brom have been rekindling their pursuit of striker Jay Rodriguez, but among so many major injuries, he’s only scored five Premier League goals through the last three seasons for Southampton.
Hopefully McClean doesn’t receive an international suspension from FIFA, and hopefully, West Brom do sign a goal scorer so that the Irishman can thrive and contribute on their wing once more. But right now, he looks to receive a suspension and West Brom don’t look to be getting a reliable scorer.