James McClean echoes Hibs' Neil Lennon as he slams FA probe over poppy abuse

Stoke City winger James McClean has echoed Hibs boss Neil Lennon, as the Republic of Ireland international hit out at the reponse to abuse he received for not wearing a poppy on his shirt.

The 29-year-old, who refuses to wear the symbol because of the role of the British Army in his hometown of Derry, and their involvement in the Bloody Sunday killings in 1972, was abused by some fans from both side’s in Stoke’s match with Middlesbrough at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday.

Responding to reports the Football Association was investigating comments he had made on social media in which he branded a section of the Stoke fanbase “uneducated cavemen”, McClean wrote: “The FA are investigating me after Saturday’s event, for what exactly?

James McClean in action for Stoke City. The Irishman is subjected to abuse every year because of his stance on wearing a poppy on his shirt. Picture: Getty Images

“Week in week out for the past seven years I get constant sectarian abuse, death threats, objects being thrown, chanting which is heard loud and clear every week which my family, wife and kids have to listen to, they turn a blind eye and not a single word of condemnation of any sort.”

“Huddersfield away last year while playing [for] West Brom, there was an incident [with] their fans which was on the game highlights, where the cameras clearly caught it yet when complaint was made to the FA they said there ‘was not enough evidence’.

“If it was a person’s skin colour, or if it was anti-Muslim, someone’s gender [there] would be an uproar and it would [be] taken in a complete different way and dealt with in a different manner.

“But like in Neil Lennon’s case in Scotland, because we are Irish Catholics, [the authorities] turn a blind eye and nothing is ever said and done...”

McClean echoed Neil Lennon's comments from last week. The Hibs boss suggested he was targeted partly because of his faith. Picture: SNS Group

The Hibs boss spoke out last week after he was hit by a coin during the hot-temepered Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle. Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal was struck by a Hibs fan, while Lennon’s captain Marvin Bartley reported that missiles had been thrown at him as well as two other Hibs players. Both assistant referees were also hit with missiles during the match.

Lennon said: “For me, it’s racism. You call it sectarianism but I call it racism. If a black person is abused, you’re abusing the colour of their skin, their culture and heritage and I get that more of less every week.

“I get called fenian, pauper, beggar – those type of words.

“Because I am an Irish Catholic who played for Celtic, I’m this, that and the other. I don’t know if the [coin] incident was sectarianism motivated or not, or just pure badness from a rival supporter.

“The “Hang Neil Lennon” graffiti to me reeks of sectarianism. It’s something the Ku Klux Klan did to black people in the 60s and it might tell you a bit about the mentality of people who sing those songs or write that graffiti on the wall. I don’t always moan or complain about it, but when you are asking me questions, there is a time now to get the elephant out of the room and really call it what it is.”

McClean was a second half substitute at the weekend, and video taken at the match showed him being subjected to abuse from Middlesbrough fans as well as some home supporters.

After the match, the 60-times capped Irish international posted a quote from Irish hunger-striker, IRA member and former MP Bobby Sands: “’They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn’t want to be broken’.”

He then added: “Your abuse, your throwing things, your booing, do your worst... to the home fans that are actually educated and support me, thank you.

“To the section of uneducated cavemen in the left-hand corner of the Boothen End stand that want to sing their anti-Irish song each game and call me a Fenian this and that... I am a PROUD FENIAN, no c*** will ever change that, so sing away.”