O’Neill expects McClean to shine again

SUNDERLAND manager Martin O’Neill believes James McClean can maintain the high standards that he has set.

The talented winger who burst onto the scene at the Stadium of Light in what was O’Neill’s first game in charge against Blackburn Rovers last December and he hasn’t looked back since then.

In fact the former Derry City man also broke into Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland European Championship squad and made his competitive debut against the current World and European champs Spain.

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“He has been sensational,” admitted O’Neill who was talking at yesterday’s (Wednesday) Pro-Am event at the Irish Open, in Portrush.

“I can remember whenever he came on against Blackburn Rovers, he gave us that little bit of extra impetus and he never really looked back after that.

“Then whenever he got his chance in terms of starting he really took his chance and played well to ensure that he kept his place in the starting line-up.”

Already everyone is starting to talk about how well the 23-year-old, who only recently signed a new three year deal with the Black Cats, will cope in his second season in the Premier League, but his boss has no worries on that front.

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“I know people are talking about the ‘second season syndrome’ but I have no doubt that he has the ability and the capacity to keep it going.

“It has been an almost fairy tale like rise which he has had and even getting into the European Championship squad and although he didn’t get much game time, he still needs to now get a break and come back a wee bit later than some of the rest of the squad and then take off from where he left off.”

There is speculation that Sunderland are thought to be tracking three of McClean’s Republic of Ireland team-mates - Aiden McGeady, Stephen Ward and Kevin Doyle - however O’Neill didn’t want to get drawn into talk about potential signings.

“I’m not going to talk about individual players and now with the Euros coming to a end you are now going to get stories about clubs after this player and players going to this team, but I think most football clubs analyise their season which has just gone past and yes obviously the team did very well, but I would like to add a bit of strength in depth to our squad.”