James McClean has issued a message to Stoke City supporters in a bid to build bridges following a week in the headlines.
The club has concluded an internal disciplinary review following McClean’s response to the reaction he received during last weekend’s goalless draw with Middlesbrough after his decision not to wear a poppy.
McClean believes it would be inappropriate to apologise to a section of fans who ‘threatened and abused him’ for the way he then reacted on social media – but he has apologised ‘wholeheartedly to the vast majority’ if he caused offence.
Stoke have been keen to keep their disciplinary procedure behind closed doors but, with McClean available for selection at Nottingham Forest tomorrow, the player has gone public with a statement via the club website.
He said: “At last Saturday’s game a section of our supporters threatened and abused me because of my religious beliefs and upbringing.
“I am certain that no fair-minded person would regard that as acceptable but I recognise that as a professional footballer, and therefore a role model, I’m expected to tolerate it.
“Whilst, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to apologise to those fans who abused me, I do want to whole-heartedly apologise to the vast majority of Stoke City fans who although they may have different views to myself are decent and respectful.
“I sincerely apologise for any offence that I caused them with my comments and posting on Instagram.”
McClean has always been clear about his decision not to wear a poppy during Remembrance.
He grew up on Derry’s Creggan estate, which was home to six of the 28 unarmed civilians shot dead by British soldiers in the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972.
“People say I am being disrespectful but don’t ask why I choose not to wear it,” he said in 2015.
“If the poppy was simply about World War One and Two victims alone, I’d wear it without a problem.
“I would wear it every day of the year if that was the thing but it doesn’t. It stands for all the conflicts that Britain has been involved in.
“Because of the history where I come from in Derry, I cannot wear something that represents that.”