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Stoke could sign James McClean – would he be welcomed with open arms?

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Stoke City

Stoke could sign James McClean – would he be welcomed with open arms?

The 29-year-old is certainly splitting opinion among Potters fans.

BBC Sport are reporting that Stoke City are closing in on the signing of Republic of Ireland international James McClean as Gary Rowett continues to remould his squad ahead of the new season.

The 29-year-old has one year remaining on his contract at West Bromwich Albion but appears set to leave The Hawthorns following a frustrating campaign.

McClean failed to hold down a regular place in the starting eleven in a team that ultimately ended the season by dropping into The Championship and was strongly linked with a move in January.

He did start all of Darren Moore’s six games in charge as caretaker manager in the closing weeks of the campaign as The Baggies produced a string of positive performances, yet the winger looks set to leave after three years with the club.

Stoke are currently leading the chase for his signature but are expected to face competition from a string of rivals across the top two tiers of English football.

The Potters were relegated from the Premier League after a decade-long stay in the top flight and have moved quickly to generate an air of positivity around the Bet365 Stadium as they prepare for life in The Championship.

(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The club hierarchy appointed Derby County manager Rowett as their new manager at the start of the summer and the 44-year-old has moved quickly to overhaul the current squad of players.

The arrivals of Oghenekaro Etebu and Benik Afobe have already been confirmed whilst Welsh international Joe Allen has signed a new contract despite being widely expected to depart following relegation.

It appears that Rowett has now turned his attention towards McClean as he looks to add further quality in wide areas.

Ramadan Sobhi joined Hudersfield Town earlier this month whilst Xherdan Shaqiri has confirmed that he intends to move to a top flight club before the start of the season.

That leaves Rowett with just one recognised winger in the form of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who was consistently inconsistent throughout the previous campaign and could still look to facilitate a move himself.

It is little surprise that Rowett is facilitating a move for McClean. He attempted to sign the 29-year-old in January whilst he was manager of Derby and it would appear that he rates the winger highly as he chases his signature for the second successive transfer window.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

A good signing? Or a divisive political figure?

 

Whilst James McClean certainly has an abundance of experience of both Premier League and international football, having made over 100 appearances for West Bromwich Albion and won 59 caps for the Republic of Ireland, it is a signing that is unlikely to be a popular one at the Bet365 Stadium.

A poll in the Staffordshire Sentinel, the most prominent regional newspaper in North Staffordshire, revealed that of over 3,000 Stoke City supporters only 28% were in favour of a move the for 29-year-old.

Much of the animosity stems from McClean’s refusal to wear the poppy and this was reflected in the poll, where over half of those included cited the winger’s political views as the main reason they did not back a potential transfer.

McClean himself has publicly explained his position which relates to his affinity with the Irish City of Derry where, during the Troubles of the late twentieth century, six people from the Creggan estate where he grew up were killed on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

The winger has stated that he would wear a poppy if it only related to soldiers who died during World War One and Two and that his position is one of peace.

However, from a football perspective the 29-year-old certainly has plenty to offer.

He is renowned for his attitude and application on the pitch with his energy, work ethic and general high levels of fitness making him a perfect fit for the high intensity world of Championship football.

The Republic of Ireland international certainly does not lack any technical ability either and he would certainly be a positive addition to Rowett’s new-look team.

Stoke’s relegation last season was underpinned by a lack of creativity and pace in the final third of the pitch and McClean’s arrival would help to address those issues.

He may not be the most high-profile winger that is currently available yet he would be a good fit for a Championship club that is looking to mount a promotion challenge.

However, some Stoke supporters will need to look beyond their opposition to McClean’s political beliefs and judge him on his performances on the pitch.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

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