James McCLean_Flag

James McClean – A Principled Man Who Refuses To Bow

James McClean does tend to make life hard for himself at times – there’s little doubting that – but then so do most principled people with absolute conviction.

By now you’ll have most likely seen the footage and read about how the West Brom winger turned away from the English flag as ‘God Save The Queen’ bellowed out before their friendly against Charleston Battery.


The images quickly made their way onto various social media feeds and the controversy that surrounds the Republic of Ireland winger whipped up a storm. McClean himself isn’t a particularly gifted footballer but his ability to send ultra-proud British nationalists into meltdown is unparalleled. He is the Lionel Messi of antagonists.

He has been labelled a disgrace and abhorrent in some quarters with many column inches devoted to panning him for his behaviour.

That’s not to say he does any of it on purpose, though. It’s quite clear it is not his intention to insult or disrespect English people; his reasons are much, much deeper than that. Being from Derry, he has been born into and grown up with a certain perspective.

A lot of people from the border regions of Northern Ireland and the Republic do, but particularly Derry people due to the events of Bloody Sunday in which 26 innocents were shot by the British army at a civil rights’ protest. 13 of them were killed instantly – a 14th died a number of weeks later from the injuries.

For those who would argue that incident lies in the murky, dark past of Northern Ireland and that we should all move on from those days, most people, including McClean, have moved on – but things are forgiven and yet not so easily forgotten.


His refusal to wear the poppy during Remembrance Week has long stuck in the craw of many proud Brits, but a full, eloquent open letter to former Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, in which he outlined his position on the matter, seemed to quell things a little.


Turning his back on St. George’s flag last weekend, though, has stirred the hornets’ nest once again. “If he doesn’t like us so much, why doesn’t he go back to where he comes from”, they cried. Technically he’s from the UK so where exactly would he be going back to?

“He’s not afraid to take the Queen’s money, though, is he? He’s a hypocrite”, was another questionable slant.

Actually, the Queen doesn’t pay him, he keeps her royal majesty sitting comfortably on her throne by working in England and paying his taxes – taxes she lives off.


There’s a difference between hatred for a country and its people, and contempt for some of its traditions. Surely anyone with half a brain in their head can understand why McClean, from the Creggan in Derry, might have a deep dislike for some customs of imperialist regime who suppressed his people for decades.

It doesn’t mean he hates English or British people in general, though – it’s a great country full of great people, but that doesn’t mean you have to agree or be subservient to all of its cultural habits.

McClean himself has kept his counsel since the incident but did indirectly make his feelings clear on his Twitter account.

Never mind the hugely questionable playing of the anthems during a club friendly, if you examine the incident, McClean merely turns away and quietly bows his head. He doesn’t flip his fingers in the direction of the flag.

We live in a free world, afforded the right to make these choices, however controversial they may be to some people. He should be respected for his convictions, not bullied and abused for them.