James McClean is on his way out of Sunderland after news that the club have accepted a £2m bid from recently relegated Wigan Athletic, and McClean has confirmed his leaving the club on his personal Twitter account. This is quite a change from this time last year where he had just taken Sunderland by storm, taking home the club’s Young Player of the Year award, getting called up for the Republic of Ireland and signing a new contract that was supposed to keep him at the Stadium of Light until 2015.
McClean arrived at Sunderland for a mere £350,000 from League of Ireland side Derry City and was dubbed by Steve Bruce as “one for the future”. McClean never actually made an appearance under Bruce but after Martin O’Neil took over as manager, on December 3rd, 2011, he decided to give McClean a chance and McClean made the most of it. McClean’s service into the box was something that was a real strong point of his, attempting 148 crosses and completing 24% of them. McClean created 28 chances, which equated to him creating one every 66 minutes and had two assists – pretty impressive numbers coming from someone who was somewhat of an unknown coming into the season. McClean’s combination of pace and power helped him be a pretty successful dribbler and a pretty good goal scorer for a winger. McClean attempted 82 dribbles, one every 22.5 minutes, and made 27 successful dribbles.
He bagged five goals, one every 369 minutes, and had a 17% chance conversion rate. His eye catching displays earned him a call up for the Republic of Ireland, which he picked over Northern Ireland, his birth country. This stirred up quite a bit of controversy, something that plagued McClean’s entire Sunderland career. McClean already had four international caps, including one substitute appearance in the Euros, and looked a very promising player – one Sunderland and Irish fans alike both hoped could push on to become a top winger.
In the 2012-2013 season, McClean suffered from second season syndrome as well as being embroiled in more controversy. McClean seemed a less confident player and was less willing to take players on and less willing to try to provide service for Sunderland’s strikers. He attempted 83 dribbles, only one more than the prior season despite playing 487 more minutes, as well as playing 128 crosses, 20 less than the prior season, and only completed 15% of them. This resulted in him creating at a lesser rate creating 29 chances, one more than the season before, and creating them every 80 minutes as opposed to every 66.
McClean’s goal scoring record nose dived scoring only twice, in the league, and his chance conversion rate went down to a lowly 7%. It didn’t help that his relationship with his own fans turned sour after he refused to wear a poppy on his shirt during a match against Everton in honor of Remembrance Sunday. He was then booed by his own fans after coming on the next week against Fulham and received death threats on Twitter, one of which was investigated by the police. McClean also got in some hot water after a game on international duty with Ireland against Kazakhstan. He went on a rant on Twitter after he was angry that he did not take play in the match and, after many felt he should have played more in the Euros, McClean vented his frustrations with Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni on the social networking site.
McClean will hope for a fresh start at Wigan and will hope to prove he was more than just a flash in the pan and get over his second season syndrome. This could be a great value buy by new Wigan boss Owen Coyle as he builds his team to go back up. He will try to fit in quickly at Wigan not only to help them make a speedy return to the Premier League, but also help keep his place in the Ireland team. McClean will also hope to stay out of the newspaper for the wrong reasons and fly a bit under the radar at Wigan. McClean has been controversial but showed he has talent and will now try to push on to be the top winger the Sunderland fans were hoping they would get.