Stephen Hunt Criticises James McClean’s English National Anthem Stance

 7 years, 4 months ago 0 Comments

Stephen Hunt

Unless you’ve been living under the warm safety of Steve Bruce’s love handles for the last week, it’s pretty clear you’ll know that James McClean has been causing a media stir with his personal/patriotic stance against the English national anthem. This will always be a contentious and fiery topic and the comments from both sides have been as predicted, it just comes as a shock that fellow Irishman, and creator of Petr Cech’s head garment would use his voice to seemingly speak out against McClean’s recent protest against the British military.

We’ll get to that, but first let’s get things up to speed on the finer details. This is of course not the first time the West Brom winger has made a strong statement against England after he famously refused to wear a poppy on his shirt during his Wigan days, as the club took part in football’s annual Remembrance Day commemoration.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that one of the six killed from the Creggan state on Bloody Sunday was McClean’s uncle. McClean, who was born on the Creggan estate didn’t shirk away from the subject and wrote a letter to Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan expressing his reasons for eschewing the poppy tribute – which was made public. The letter was as follows:

Dear Mr Whelan

I wanted to write to you before talking about this face to face and 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.

I mourn their deaths like every other decent person and if the Poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War I and II I would wear one.

I want to make that 100% clear .You must understand this.

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. Please understand, Mr Whelan, that 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. It is just a part of who we are, ingrained into us from birth.

Mr Whelan, 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.

It would be seen as an act of disrespect to those people; to my people.

I am not a war monger, or anti-British, or a terrorist or any of the accusations levelled at me in the past. I am a peaceful guy, I believe everyone should live side by side, whatever their religious or political beliefs which I respect and ask for people to respect mine in return. Since last year, I am a father and I want my daughter to grow up in a peaceful world, like any parent.

I am very proud of where I come from and I just cannot do something that I believe is wrong. In life, if you’re a man you should stand up for what you believe in.

I know you may not agree with my feelings but I hope very much that you understand my reasons.

As the owner of the club I am proud to play for, I believe I owe both you and the club’s supporters this explanation.

Yours sincerely,

James McClean

Fast forward to today and it’s a similar story as McClean turned his back on the English national anthem during West Brom’s pre-season friendly in the United States. Former Ireland winger Stephen Hunt’s recent article in the Irish Independent on the subject was every bit as controversial as he used to be during his kicking people playing days for Reading.

McClean

Whilst admitting to respecting McClean’s strength of character to stay true to his personal views when against the masses, Hunt erred on the side of caution and warned McClean that this time he could be pushing his luck:

McClean is his own man and when he takes a stance like he did with the poppy then it’s hard not to admire him, but there is only so far you can go. He may feel he has a duty to the people of Derry, but I believe you also have a duty to your family first and foremost and the money he will earn in the Premier League is better than the money he will earn in any other league, in any other country. If he isn’t careful, he’ll find that English clubs don’t want anything to do with him.

He might encounter some patriotic managers who don’t want to work with him, but more likely he will have to deal with patriotic supporters who wonder why they should show respect to somebody who disrespects something they believe in.

It might come as a surprise to McClean but there are English patriots as well as Irish patriots and while some of them will have understood his position over the poppy – I certainly did – they won’t be as tolerant when he acts as disrespectfully as he did in the US.

I have been in Ireland squads with players who were extremely proud of their Irishness. They would belt out the rebel songs but they all understood one thing. You were lucky to be earning a living in the Premier League and if your team-mates are turning to face the flag, you face it with them. Nobody is asking you to sing God Save the Queen, you just face it and move on.

By disrespecting the flag and the anthem, McClean is in danger of being viewed not as a principled man who stands up for what he believes in but as a bigot. I don’t believe that’s the case but if it becomes something that is suspected in English football then clubs will hesitate if they are considering signing him.

You can read the rest of Stephen Hunt’s article in the Irish Observer here. Meanwhile, Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill answered that he plans ‘a wee chat’ with McClean but did’t elaborate on that.

Related: Former Rangers Defender Kirk Broadfoot Receives Record 10-Game Ban For Sectarian Rant At James McCLean

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