James McClean opens up on poppy stance

James McClean pictured during the match between Wigan and Bolton. Picture: Getty
James McClean pictured during the match between Wigan and Bolton. Picture: Getty
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WIGAN Athletic’s Irish midfielder James McClean has set out his reasons for refusing to wear a poppy on his shirt, as football clubs across Britain mark the centenary of the First World War.

Derry-born McClean, 25, outlined the reasons behind his opposition in a letter to Latics chairman Dave Whelan.

The Irishman said his upbringing in Derry meant that the poppy ‘had come to mean something very different’ to him.

In the letter, he wrote: “I wanted to explain my reasons for not wearing a poppy on my shirt for the game at Bolton.

“I have complete respect for those who fought and died in both World Wars - many I know were Irish-born. I have been told that your own Grandfather Paddy Whelan, from Tipperary, was one of those.

“If the Poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War I and II, I would wear one.

“But the Poppy is used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me.

“For people from the North of Ireland such as myself, and specifically those in Derry, scene of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, the poppy has come to mean something very different.

“When you come from Creggan like myself or the Bogside, Brandywell or the majority of places in Derry, every person still lives in the shadow of one of the darkest days in Ireland’s history – even if like me you were born nearly 20 years after the event.”

McClean, who has made 24 appearances for the Republic of Ireland, added: “For me to wear a poppy would be as much a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles – and Bloody Sunday especially - as I have in the past been accused of disrespecting the victims of WWI and WWII.”

The midfielder, who came on as a substitute for Wigan last night, said that he felt ‘everyone should live side by side, whatever their religious or political beliefs’, adding that he wanted his young daughter to grow up in a peaceful world.

He finished the letter by writing that he could not do something that he believed to be wrong, adding: “I know you may not agree with my feelings but I hope very much that you understand my reasons.”

Wigan released a statement saying: “This is a personal decision by James, who explained his position in a letter to Latics Chairman Dave Whelan before the two met face to face to discuss the issue this week.

“Following the meeting, Mr Whelan accepted James’ decision.”

It was revealed in 2012 that McClean had been sent death threats while at Sunderland for his refusal to wear a poppy.