Hard to argue with Stoke manager's comments on James McClean
It's been a difficult year or so for James McClean
The Derry man has endured World Cup play-off heartache and relegation from the Premier League in the last nine months.
Life at Stoke got off to a rocky start, too, with the 29-year-old having a difference of opinion with new teammates Jack Butland and Ryan Shawcross during the defeat to McClean's former club Wigan last week.
The former Sunderland delivered the perfect response to a trying week, however, on Saturday as he scored the opener in the Potters' 2-0 victory over Hull City.
Following the game, Stoke boss Gary Rowett was full of praise for the summer recruit, highlighting one classic McClean moment in which he sprinted across half the pitch to make a crunching tackle after one of his teammates conceded possession.
"He’s an easy player to sometimes criticise," Rowett said. "And I know in his first few games he’s not performed as he would have liked, but one thing you cannot criticise James McClean for is his commitment.
“In fact, I think McClean sums us up. About 75 minutes into the game, they’re down to 10 men, we’re 2-0 up and he sprints back 60 yards to atone for one of his team-mates’ errors and makes a last-ditch tackle.
“He did that to help the team out, and I want more of that. For me, we haven’t got enough of those players in the building. They’re the type of people we want because hard work will always get rewarded.”
And that's the thing about McClean. He may not be gifted with blistering pace or exceptional technical ability, but he has one hell of a fighting mentality. He's always had heart and it great to see that his enthusiasm remains undimmed after dropping down a division.
McClean himself said getting a goal and three points was an important step after the dismal defeat to Wigan.
“Wednesday night was dreadful, so it was a good response," the RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year 2017 said. "It wasn’t perfect, but it’s something to build on. It’s one on the board and it’s great to get that winning feeling back.”
“I got a bit of luck with a deflection, but I’ll take it. I don’t think for the last four games we’ve had that luck, but hopefully that’s the turning point now.
Next up for Stoke is Huddersfield in the EFL Cup on Tuesday night before a trip to McClean's former employers West Brom on Saturday.