James McClean on PPE gesture, coronavirus abuse & 'ridiculous' demands on players
McClean: "It's ridiculous. You've got Matt Hancock saying we should take a pay cut. No one seems to like footballers"
By Paul Gilmour, Sky Sports News reporter
Last Updated: 05/04/20 4:13pm
James McClean has donated Personal Protective Equipment to frontline workers in his home city of Derry and the Stoke City winger has urged authorities to do more for those risking their lives.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports News, McClean has spoken about:
- Disagreeing with Health Secretary Matt Hancock on footballer responsibilities.
- What it's like to read coronavirus insults towards his kids.
- How his balaclava social media post was supposed to be a joke.
It was a thankful doctor at Altnagelvin hospital who revealed McClean had donated kit to the under-pressure staff. It led to the Republic of Ireland international being quizzed about his good deed, but to him it was about remembering where he's from.
"I was going through Facebook and saw a post asking for help," said McClean. "I just typed into Google to see what I could get and was fortunate to find equipment."
He immediately purchased around 400 pairs of gloves, 100 face masks, protective visors, 10 hand sanitisers and over 100 gowns.
He added: "It's not going to solve all the problems but hopefully it can tide them over. It begs the question if I'm able to go online why can't the authorities supply enough equipment?"
This week Matt Hancock used a daily coronavirus update to tell players to "play their part" by taking a pay cut. It attracted criticism from Gary Neville and Andros Townsend.
"It's ridiculous," said McClean. "You've got Matt Hancock saying we should take a pay cut. No one seems to like footballers.
"We've got livelihoods too and people might take this the wrong way but we do work hard for our money.
"Think about what players pay towards government tax. Football is a short career and we've got to look after our families once it's over. I've seen players do great deeds from their own pocket."
While talks continue for players to reduce their salaries, McClean has a history of spontaneous gestures that range from helping to feed the homeless to surprising a down syndrome football team.
"It's never been about publicity. I'm a Derry boy," he said. "We weren't blessed with a lot of money growing up so if I see someone struggling I take the position I'm in seriously.
"I like to help people less fortunate as much as I can. I've been in a position that I've been less fortunate."
He has always been painted as somewhat of a villain in English football, mainly around the poppy issue, and his reputation was again a topic of discussion recently when he posed for a photograph in a balaclava pretending to take his kids for a 'history lesson.' Stoke fined McClean two weeks' wages for what they called "an inappropriate social media post" by the winger.
He said: "If I sat here and said I don't regret things I'd be lying but I can take a lot of abuse and can't have fun back?
"It was supposed to be light-hearted joke but I can understand why it didn't go down well. People think I did a history lesson like that but I didn't actually do it."
McClean's brother Patrick, a defender for Irish Premiership club Glentoran, recently revealed the nature of the vile abuse the Stoke player received on social media.
McClean says the taunts, which happened before his latest Instagram post, can be upsetting.
He said: "Things like 'I hope your kids get coronavirus and die' or 'It would be a laugh if your house burned down with your kids inside'.'
"There was someone online, who looked over 40, abusing my kids. Of course (it's upsetting). Footballers are a free hit. It's like it's viewed as we earn this amount of money so we should just take it.
"I've got a good family around me and group of friends. They are the opinions that I value. Not everyone is going to like me especially if you go with the grain.
"It gets annoying when things like that (Instagram post) get all this coverage. When I breathe or look the wrong way there is an article. People get their perception from things like this."