The Football Association has warned James McClean over a social media post in which he described some of his own fans as “uneducated cavemen” after being abused for not wearing a poppy.
The Republic of Ireland international was subject to verbal abuse from both home and away fans during Stoke’s 0-0 draw with visitors Middlesbrough on Saturday.
In response, the winger took to Instagram to condemn such abuse and singled out the “uneducated cavemen” from the Boothen End of the Bet365 Stadium.
After learning the FA was investigating the remarks, McClean hit out against the governing body and accused it of ‘turning a blind eye’ to the abuse he has received throughout his career for being an Irish Catholic.
The FA, which handed Kirk Broadfoot a 10-game ban for verbally abusing the Irishman in 2015, has since ruled that it won’t be taking disciplinary action against McClean but revealed it has warned the winger over his comments.
A FA spokesperson said: “Stoke City’s James McClean has been warned by The FA for his use of an offensive word on social media. We are satisfied that the rest of the player’s postings do not breach FA Rules and, therefore, no further disciplinary action will be taken.
“The FA adds that any discriminatory language or behaviour aimed at any person or persons of nationality or faith, as we understand may have been experienced by the player in this case, is unacceptable.”
McClean has made clear why he does not wear a poppy and, before Saturday’s fixture, Stoke confirmed in a statement that their player’s stance had not changed.
The 29-year-old made a late appearance in the draw and was subsequently abused as he made his way to the players’ tunnel, with Middlesbrough fans seen booing and swearing at the winger as stewards attempted to push back the supporters.
Late on Saturday night, McClean, who was also booed by some home fans, responded by quoting Bobby Sands, a member of the Provisional IRA and MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, who infamously died in 1981 on hunger strike while imprisoned in Northern Ireland.
“They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn’t want to be broken,” McClean wrote, quoting Sands.
He continued: “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 song 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.”
Gary Rowett, Stoke’s manager, defended his player and accused away fans of using it as an opportunity to “goad somebody”.
“It’s his belief and he’s strong enough to come out and with his belief, whether you agree with it or not,” he told the Stoke Sentinel.
McClean had confirmed earlier in the week he would not wear a poppy, a decision he has made every year – and been consistently abused for – since first moving to England to join Sunderland in 2011.
The Irishman was born in the city of Derry and grew up on Creggan estate, where six of the people killed on Bloody Sunday in 1972 came from.
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