One to Watch - James McClean
Name: James McClean
Date of Birth: 22/4/1989
Nationality: Republic of Ireland
Former Clubs: Derry City
League Appearances (Goals): 87 (21)
International Appearances (Goals): 1 (0)
Stat of the Day James McClean has made 70 crosses this season, with 11 of them being classified as 'successful`
Nobody has benefited from the managerial change at the Stadium of Light more than James McClean; a young reserve team player hailed as nothing more than a 'prospective talent` apparently 'acclimatising to his new surroundings` under Steve Bruce, the left winger grabbed his chance with his hands, feet and head when given an opportunity by new manager Martin O`Neill - he certainly hasn`t looked back since. The 22 year old is swiftly earning himself a growing band of admirers, and whilst Sunderland have clearly forgotten contracts in football are about as meaningful as a team turning up to play against Lionel Messi, they have promptly moved to secure a new three year deal for the Republic of Ireland international.
Whilst the term 'an old fashioned winger` is probably one of the most pointless sayings in football, McClean has found himself described as such a player on numerous occasions. His ability to consistently beat players with his pace and power and repeatedly provide dangerous crosses into the box has endeared him to the hearts of the Sunderland faithful. Just as a crunching tackle or closing the opposition down with Jamie Mackie-esque vigour will rouse a crowd, the sight of a player running full pelt at defenders is a delightful sight for any football fan. McClean, no longer an unknown quantity throughout the Premier League, faces his next challenge of maintaining his impressive performances as sides plan to nullify his attacking presence. In Martin O`Neill, he has the perfect mentor, and in Sunderland, he has the perfect setting to showcase his talents where in my opinion, the tricky winger will become a huge hit for years to come.
James McClean had made a solitary appearance for Institute, the main semi-professional club in Derry, before he signed for Derry City after impressing on trial. His league debut came in September 2008 and seventy-two more appearances and eighteen goals soon followed. Derry were expelled from the League of Ireland in 2009 for financial irregularities, but McClean spurned Lincoln City`s advances to continue to play for a reformed Derry. His loyalty was rewarded as Steve Bruce was suitably impressed with his performances for a League of Ireland Select XI in a pre-season tournament where he faced the likes of Manchester City and Celtic.
McClean joined Sunderland in August 2011 for a fee of £350 000. His first few months at the Stadium of Light were largely spent in their development squad, however Martin O`Neill was further impressed with the winger and gave him his senior debut in Sunderland`s 1-0 victory over Man City. McClean has made a total of 14 appearances for his new club and has already three goals and one assist to his name.