‘You know what side of the fence I’m on’
Graeme Souness insists he abhors the type of abuse James McClean gets when he plays his club football at grounds across England, but his advice ‘to get on with it’ was never going to go down well.
The former Liverpool and Rangers player was on talkSport and gave his take on the flak McClean has been getting in recent months and, at this stage, years.
The Republic of Ireland international has previously made his stance clear about not wearing a ‘Remembrance Day’ poppy on his club jersey when he lines out for games.
Last month, a Wigan reporter recorded vile chants being directed at McClean, which the player himself called out on social media. McClean was also booed and abused by Swansea supporters during their weekend game against Wigan Athletic.
Asked about the McClean situation – and footballers wearing poppies – Souness said, “We live in a democracy. If he’s being booed at a football game, or things are being sung about him, that’s not nice.
“It’s not nice for his wife or his kid, it is totally wrong that him and his family are being threatened. That’s abhorrent. But it will just be keyboard warriors and village idiots.
“But you also have to understand that 10,000 Irish soldiers lost their lives in the Second World War – and I think it’s right we remember them.”
‘James McClean has to get on with it’
“You know what side of the fence I’m on,” Graeme Souness continued. “I managed a Protestant institution in Glasgow Rangers and we were royalists.
“Going back a month, there was a small element at several football grounds up and down the country that rejoiced in the death of our Queen. That’s unacceptable.
“There is nothing the FA can do about that, but that happened. So James has to get on with it. It is very much his right to choose to go down that road, but I’m afraid this will not go away for him.
“It will be an annual thing he has to take on the chin because he has chosen to go down that road.”
Of course, while James McClean has been told he must suck it up and that this heightened level of abuse will be ‘an annual thing’ until he retires, other footballers, such as former Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic, have not received the same amount of flak for not donning a poppy on their jersey.
During the broadcast on talkSport, McClean himself reached out to host Jim White with a response just for Souness.
‘It became not just me but my family’
James McClean must have either been listening in to the radio show, or been alerted to the discussion, as he fired Jim White a message for the former Rangers player/manager.
‘Jim,’ the message began, ‘can you tell Mr Souness with regards to his ‘get on with it’ advice – I got on with it for a very long time until it became not just me but my family.
‘It is one thing taking abuse, but when your family gets involved, it means a totally different thing. I would suggest if he’s not in a position to talk about it as I am, then he doesn’t appreciate the level of abuse I have to endure.’
Souness weighed up that McClean retort before saying, “I accept that. Once it impacts on your family, it must be very difficult. But this is something he has to deal with.
“This was his choice. Maybe he should go back to when he first made this stance, maybe someone said, ‘This will not just be about you, going forward’. And that is the case.”
Very much a case of take your medicine from the former Scotland star.