The text message and investigation into poppy storm: James McClean says tide is turning

Irish international James McClean has revealed that a significant figure from the Football Association sent him a text message eight days ago which encouraged him to report crowd abuse.

The Derryman’s revelation coincides with the FA’s unprecedented decision to investigate an allegation of “discriminatory behaviour” directed at the player during Stoke’s clash against Barnsley last Saturday. The FA has previously investigated online abuse directed towards McClean, who hails from the Creggan estate and refuses on principle to wear a poppy in commemoration of Remembrance Sunday, but this is the first instance in which they have broadened their scope to include specific abuse during a match.

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“For the first time ever, I got a text message from the FA showing support on the eve of the game so that’s a first one,” said McClean, speaking ahead of Ireland’s crucial Euro 2020 qualifying clash against Denmark, which takes place at the Aviva Stadium on Monday.

“Maybe the tide is turning. I appreciate the text, it said if there were any issues, I should report it. It was the first time that such support was shown.

“It’s a long time coming and it’s something I appreciate. I was shocked because it was a random number. As much as I was shocked, I appreciate it as well.

“It came from somebody high up. That is why I was so shocked that it actually came.”

McClean has criticised the FA for their hypocrisy in differentiating between sectarian and racist abuse but is unsure whether this week’s developments mark a change of culture.

“Maybe, maybe not. I think if you bang on the door long enough eventually someone is going to answer.

“Maybe it took me calling it out a few times for them to respond. But they responded, so fair play.”

McClean had previously accused the FA of turning a “blind eye” to the abuse he had received from fans since he first took his stance in 2011.

“If it was a person’s skin colour or if it was anti-Muslim, someone’s gender, there would be an uproar and it would be taken in a completely different way and dealt with in a different manner,” he said.

“But like in Neil Lennon’s case in Scotland, because we are Irish Catholics, they turn a blind eye and nothing is ever said and done.”

Anti-IRA and anti-Pope songs were clearly audible at Barnsley’s ground last Saturday and referee Jeremy Simpson reported the incidents to the FA.

McClean, 30, is eager to gain revenge on Denmark to erase the heartache of the humiliating World Cup play-off defeat in Dublin two years ago.

“We’ve shown it in the past. We beat Germany when it mattered, Italy when it mattered, Wales when it mattered.

“We’ve got a big result in us. We probably haven’t had that big result this campaign yet.

“Now we’ve one game to do it. I’ve played every game.

“I’ve contributed well but it would be nice to score.”

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