McClean sticks to beliefs in not wearing poppy

Ian Watson
James McClean West Brom TEAMtalk

West Brom’s James McClean says he will ‘stand by his principles’ by again refusing to wear a poppy on his jersey around Remembrance Day next month.

McClean found himself at the centre of controversy on Saturday after sparking a melee by celebrating the Baggies’ win over his former side Sunderland in front of their traveling supporters at The Hawthorns.

The ex-Black Cats midfielder was confronted by several visiting players, including Danny Graham and Lee Catermole and could find himself in hot water with the FA.

It is understood referee Martin Atkinson did not see the initial incident on Saturday and will indicate that in his report, allowing the FA to take retrospective action if they see fit.

McClean, who left Sunderland in 2013, was jeered by away fans who sung ‘f*** the IRA’ following his refusal to wear a poppy while playing for them against Everton in 2012.

He claimed he was ‘hung out to dry’ by the club, insisting he was not allowed to tell his side, and finally explained his reasons in an open letter to then Wigan chairman Dave Whelan when playing for the Latics in November last year.

McClean also refused to face the English flag while on West Brom’s American tour in the summer and was told by boss Tony Pulis he must show more respect.

But, speaking to the Baggies’ programme on Saturday, the Republic of Ireland international revealed he would not wear a poppy next month and will stand up for his beliefs.

He said: “If I didn’t stand by principles, if I didn’t have beliefs, I wouldn’t be the person I am and I probably wouldn’t be in the Premier League. Standing up for things is in my character. I was brought up to be honest and stay true to myself.

“Coming from where I do, we are proud people, we wear our hearts on our sleeves, that’s who I am, on and off the field. Sometimes it gets me into trouble, but the frustrating thing about that is the way I’m portrayed rather than the truth of it, and so I want to take the chance to make it clear to Albion supporters what I’m about.

“We are coming up to Remembrance Day and I won’t wear a poppy on my shirt when those games come around. People say that by not wearing a poppy, I’m being disrespectful but they don’t ask why it is that I choose not to wear it.

“If the poppy was simply about World War One and Two victims alone, I would wear it without a problem. I’d wear it every day of the year if that was the thing, but it doesn’t, it stands for all the conflicts that Britain has been involved in.”