James McClean has urged any players hoping to follow in the footsteps of Declan Rice to “*** off and play for someone else”, per RTE.
Rice won three caps for the Republic of Ireland, all of which came in friendlies, but declared his international allegiance to England and made his Three Lions debut in the 5-0 win over the Czech Republic last week.
McClean, a controversial figure who has regularly hit the headlines due to his refusal to wear a poppy around Remembrance Sunday, played with the West Ham star for Ireland.
Indeed, he has won 63 caps for Ireland, and he says that Rice should not have switched allegiance, having previously expressed his pride at playing for the Boys in Green.
McClean, though, made a similar decision when he was younger. He won seven caps for Northern Ireland’s Under-21 side, having been born in Derry.
Speaking in an interview with RTE, he said: “He said he was a proud Irishman. Then he said he was a proud Englishman.
“If he’s both… good luck to him but I don’t buy it. I think you’re either one or the other.
“I was with Derry City when I got the call-up to play for the North, and I turned it down because it’s not my country, it’s never been my country. I’m an Irishman.
“It’s not just Declan, it’s anyone else. If you’re not proud to be here and we’re a stepping-stone, then *** off and play for someone else.
“I’m an Irishman. I grew up on the island of Ireland, simple as that. We only want players here who want to play for Ireland, who feel Irish and are proud to be Irish.”
This is rank hypocrisy from McClean.
He is uniquely positioned to be aware of how difficult a decision Rice faced.
He chose England, of course, and explained why in an eloquent statement thereafter, claiming, per Football London: “Like so many people around the world, I consider myself to be of mixed nationality. I am a proud Englishman, having been born and raised in London. However, I am just as proud of my family’s Irish heritage and my affinity and connection with the country.”
McClean is clearly deaf to that. He does not even claim to understand what Rice has been through despite his own personal experience in playing for a different nation at youth level.
Perhaps he is merely trying to buy himself some goodwill among Ireland’s fans. If so, this is a shameful way of going about it.