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04th Nov 2018

James McClean responds to “uneducated cavemen” after abuse during Stoke’s draw with Middlesbrough

Wayne Farry

The Ireland international was subject to verbal abuse at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday

Stoke City and Republic of Ireland player James McClean has responded to the abuse he received during and after Stoke City’s draw with Middlesbrough.

McClean, who hails from Derry, was subject to verbal abuse throughout the game, with supporters reportedly singing anti-Irish songs, and was confronted by a number of fans at the away end after the game.

The abuse and McClean’s subsequent statement represents a recurring theme in terms of his decision to not wear a poppy, traditionally worn at this time of year in remembrance of British soldiers.

McClean’s reasoning behind his decision – which he has reiterated consistently – is that the poppy commemorates all soldiers, even those who killed unarmed citizens of Derry on Bloody Sunday in 1972 – rather than just soldiers from both world wars.

McClean said via an Instagram post:

“They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn’t want to be broken. Your abuse, your throwing things, your booing, do your worst. To the home fans that are actually educated and support me, thank you. To the section of uneducated cavemen in the left hand corner of the Boothen End Stand that want to song their Anti-Irish songs each game and call me a Fenian this and that, I am a PROUD FENIAN. No c**t will ever change that, so sing away.”

Later that same night, some footage recorded from the stands was uploaded online, showing the extreme anger and hatred on display by some of the fans towards McClean, with many furious fans having to be held back by stewards.

Stoke City had already released their statement, backing their player’s decision:

“We recognise that the poppy means different things to different individuals and communities and (like the Royal British Legion) do not believe that anybody should be forced or even pressured to wear the Poppy against their free will. James has informed us that he will not be wearing a Remembrance Day Poppy in our next two games. We respect his decision and his right to follow his own convictions.”

The level of sheer antipathy towards McClean – who grew up on the Creggan Estate, home to six of the 14 unarmed people killed on Bloody Sunday – was illustrated in a video posted by Boro Fan TV after match.

During an interview with a supporter, several adult males can be seen swarming the camera while singing “Fuck James McClean”.