DUP MP Gregory Campbell has been joined by Shamrock Rovers and Gillingham legend Damien ‘Rico’ Richardson in suggesting James McClean should get out of England after he turned at right angles to the English flag with head bowed as the national anthem of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was played prior to a friendly football match in the United States of America.
Mr Richardson said McClean should leave West Midlands club West Bromwich Albion and play in another country if he was unwilling to stand for ‘God Save The Queen,’ the 18th century patriotic song first played during the Jacobite uprising of 1745, which was led by the ‘Young Pretender’ to the British Throne, Prince Charles Edward Stuart.
Stuart’s grandfather James II famously failed to breach the walls of this city during the Siege of Derry half a century earlier.
Mr Richardson, who managed Mr McClean’s new boss Tony Pulis at Gillingham suggested the Welshman will not tolerate non-compliance in the dressing room.
He made the comments during Irish soccer highlights magazine, ‘Soccer Republic’ on Monday evening.
He echoed Mr Campbell who has commented: “James McClean is a highly paid footballer playing in the English Premiership, so if he’s going to continue behaving like this he needs to reconsider who he’s playing for.
“He should reconsider who his paymasters are or move elsewhere so there isn’t a problem.
“He needs to keep his head down and play football, but what he shouldn’t do while earning money from the UK is set himself up as a controversial pseudo-political figure, which is what he’s doing.
“If he didn’t want to sing the national anthem I don’t think anybody would have complained, but he should have had the courtesy and respect to simply stand there.
“It is time for his manager to take him in hand and have a word with him. It is only a few months until Remembrance Day and we’ll have a problem with the poppy and McClean again.”
Meanwhile, SDLP MLA Mark H. Durkan defended McClean and claimed players from Londonderry being singled out for special treatment
“He has probably been singled out because of the principled stances he has taken in the past while at other clubs,” said Mr Durkan.
“When Darren Kelly, another man from Derry, was appointed manger of Oldham Athletic recently, he was attacked and threatened on social media just because of who he was and where he was from.
“There are elements out there among the support base of clubs who will look for reasons to attack players, based on where they come from.”
As a Twitter storm unfolded in the wake of Mr McClean’s diplomatic faux pas some commentators referred to ex-Candystripe Sammy Morrow’s decision to turn away from the Irish tricolour during the playing of the Irish militaristic republican anthem Amhrán na bhFiann during the FAI Cup Final at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) Arena in 2008.
The Limavady man, who has played for Hibs and Tranmere Rovers, scored a brace in front of 10,000 fans on that occasion before Derry City were defeated on penalties.