CONTROVERSIAL footballer James McClean has sparked a new storm after refusing to wear a Remembrance Day poppy on his Sunderland shirt.
The winger was the only Black Cats player not to don the special jersey in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Everton.
Sunderland have confirmed the Irishman’s decision not to wear a Remembrance Day poppy on his shirt was a personal one.
A club statement said: “As a club, SAFC wholeheartedly supports the Remembrance commemorations. It was James’ personal choice not to wear a shirt on this occasion.”
The 23-year-old’s decision sparked a flurry of Twitter activity, with some users condemning him and others coming out in support of his right to choose.
Derry-born McClean sparked controversy earlier this year when he opted to play for the Republic rather than his native Northern Ireland, as he is entitled to do, and found himself the target for abuse.
However, he issued a humble apology in September after using his own Twitter account to express his disappointment at being left on the bench as Giovanni Trapattoni’s men laboured to a 2-1 World Cup qualifying victory in Kazakhstan.
Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill later urged him to take greater responsibility for his career and to curtail his interest in social media.
McClean is in the Republic squad for Wednesday night’s friendly against Greece in Dublin.
The practice of clubs wearing jerseys with a Remembrance Day poppy on them and laying wreathes has been common-place in recent years.
Fellow Irishman John O’Shea, a team-mate of McClean for club and country, led Sunderland at Goodison Park and carried a wreath to the centre circle before the game with Everton’s Phil Neville and was accompanied by three members of the armed forces.
And Sunderland striker Connor Wickham, whose father serves in the Army, posted a tweet in support of the armed forces.
“We should be proud of our troops,” he wrote.