James McClean can become a Latics legend

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McClean and Smalling challenge for the ball.

Latics at Wembley, a goal behind to Manchester United in the Community Shield.

Stephen Crainey launches a ball over the Reds’ defence. Chris Smalling makes a hash of it and James McClean is through with what is to be Latics’ best chance in the match. But instead of looking for Grant Holt coming up on his inside the Irishman hits a cross shot that goes astray.

It was McClean’s debut for Wigan Athletic, only three days after being signed from Sunderland.  He had looked lively that afternoon at Wembley, clearly keen to make an impression on the match. The 24 year old had been so keen to come to Wigan that he had taken a pay cut to drop down a division in his move from the north east.

It is his enthusiastic approach and his willingness to run at defenders that endears McClean to so many Wigan Athletic fans. Often referred to in fan forums by his first name – an accolade rare among Latics fans – ‘James’ has already become a player with the potential to be a legend at the club. At 5’11” he is physically strong and is never afraid to take on defenders.  He has a great left foot and genuine pace. So why is he not playing in the Premier League?

During his time at Sunderland some of their more extreme fans dubbed him ‘a headless chicken’ , through his lack of awareness when on the ball. Mathew Wear of the Mackems  fan site ‘A Love Supreme’ provided us with a more balanced view of McClean’s time at Sunderland in the article we posted in August.

McClean had a hard time at Sunderland over the ‘poppy issue’, which made him unpopular with many fans. Facing probing media questions about McClean’s absence at the same time this season Owen Coyle stated that the player was injured.

Moreover McClean has had various off the field problems with his club and national team managers through his activity on ‘Twitter’.

McClean had a ‘Man of the Match’ performance in Martin O’Neill’s ’ first game as Republic of Ireland manager in November .However, he was soon to get himself in hot water once again with the manager following another rant on Twitter. He had similar problems with both O’Neill and Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland and with Giovanni Trappatoni for Ireland.

Up to this point in the season  James McClean has started 14 games and come on as a substitute in 11. He was unfortunate in having his first goal for the club chalked off as the match with Sheffield Wednesday was abandoned.

Under Coyle, McClean was used a winger, on both flanks. Although less comfortable on the right he has a powerful shot and can be employed in the same way Latics that Roberto Martinez effectively used Charles N’Zogbia. However, since Uwe Rosler’s arrival McClean has added energy and vigour when played in a striking role. If Rosler decides to play with wing backs this will be McClean’s role.

On his appointment Rosler was asked about Callum McManaman and James McLean. He described each as exciting, fast and direct players that would fit his system, while reserving a diplomatic word about room for improvement in McLean’s final pass. Rosler is already getting much more out of McManaman and he has clearly had an influence on McClean.

Rosler can help McClean to become a top player. As an ex-striker the German has a good insight as to what is required.  McClean has spent most of his career as a left winger. He is likely to have to play a variety of roles under Rosler, which will make him into a better player.

McClean has been left on the bench for Latics’ last two games against Burnley and Derby, despite approaching his best form in previous matches. However, he has recently become a father for the first time and this might have impacted upon Rosler’s decisions.

James McClean is an enigma, both on the field and off it. He could be Uwe Rosler’s greatest challenge.

Were Rosler to be successful in unlocking the Irishman’s potential it would make a huge difference in Latics’ quest for a return to the top flight.

McClean has the ability to become a top quality forward.

He has the support of the majority of Latics fans who will be willing him to succeed.

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