The decision of Sunderland player James McClean on Saturday, in his refusal to wear a poppy en-crested shirt has sparked widespread debate, condemnation and varying conjecture within the football world and other. Opinion on the topic seems to be hanging in the balance at the present time.
Is he to be lorded for having the courage and strength of character to stand up for his beliefs?, or vilified and castigated for a decision based on questionable motives, and the alienation of not just his team mates but the football world as a whole.
It has to be stressed that we do live in a democracy, and in an environment that fosters free speech, and where we are encouraged to have our own ideas and opinions: a concept that I would wholeheartedly champion.
The problem with this specific incident only arises when we analyse it in greater depth to reveal a certain degree of hypocrisy. No one could argue that having been raised in Derry: a city with a troubled past in terms of its relationship with The British, that he doesn’t have the right to feel the way he does, and his refusal to wear a poppy based on the negative connotations that the symbol evokes within his own mindset could be justifiable.
However, for one with such strong beliefs: to the extent that he is willing to play the martyr, he seems more than comfortable in drawing his Royal Mint sponsored wages from the British system and paying thousands and thousands of pounds worth in taxes to the British Government every year: indirectly bankrolling the Armed Forces at home and abroad including places such as Northern Ireland?
I wonder if this stark realisation will encourage Mr McLean to hand in his resignation at Sunderland? I doubt it very much! Whilst he’s still being soothed to sleep every night by the dulcet tones of cold hard cash, I’d be willing to wager that his principles are somewhat cast aside: temporarily at least! In terms of having his cake and eating it, this man could give the staff at Kipling’s a run for their money!
Of course, this isn’t the first time that James McClean has openly courted controversy. After representing his country of birth(Northern Ireland) at under-21 level, he then switched allegiance to the Republic Of Ireland, much to the general bewilderment and consternation of the IFA and all the fans of the Northern Irish team. The subsequent antagonistic tweets and sarcasm laced remarks will have done little to soften the blow.
It is my personal belief that due to a very special set of circumstances both political and other that exist within Northern Ireland, that all players growing up there should have the choice of who they wish to represent if given that opportunity. The difference between James McClean and most of the people that I know in Northern Ireland, and the very reason he leaves himself open for such criticism on this point, is that they are so strong in their belief, that they would decide firmly one way or the other, instead of flirting on the fence as James McClean clearly did.
I would suggest that in both of these cases James McClean has acted out of selfishness and personal betterment rather than in accordance with any political, religious or personal doctrine.
People with values and principles, in my eyes, are to be respected and held up as a beacon of conviction. I have absolutely no issue with anyone trying to make a stand for their beliefs, in fact I’m very much an advocate of it. But, if you are going to make a stand, you need to be unwavering and give yourself to it completely. There is no evidence to suggest that James McClean can be thought of in these terms.
His behaviour is more akin to that of a spoiled child than of a moral crusader, and in the process he has taken more than a predatory nip at the hand that feeds him. He’d be the kind of vegetarian that would apply for a job in the local abattoir should the remuneration package match his needs!
In summary it should be pointed out that a slice of common sense should have prevailed here, the same common sense that allowed him to observe the minutes silence at Goodison without it conflicting too much with his beliefs. And remember James, if it all gets a little too much, I’m sure Derry City would welcome you back with open arms!