SUNDERLAND winger James McClean has been forgiven his most recent transgression by his country and will start for the Republic of Ireland against Sweden in this evening’s World Cup qualifier.
The 23-year-old, who has become a divisive figure among the Sunderland fans, will be directly up against club team-mate Sebastian Larsson in the match, which takes place in Dublin.
Fellow Black Cat John O’Shea (pictured left) will captain the Irish side on what will be his 86th cap. Keiren Westwood is on the bench.
McClean was forced recently to close down his Twitter account for a second time after being criticised for admitting listening to a traditional Irish rebel song before a game. The former Derry City man was back on the social network site yesterday, however, having had a picture of him posted by Irish team-mate James McCarthy; he was caught colouring in his own boots.
M cClean was booed by a small section of the Sunderland support when he came on during Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Norwich, and he does face a battle to win his way back into their affections.
He also landed himself in hot water with international manager Giovanni Trapattoni after expressing his disgust at being left out of the team for the World Cup qualifier in Kazakhstan in September. The Sunderland man later issued an apology to the Italian. Meanwhile, Sunderland last night played down reports in Africa that Zambian international defender Stoppila Sunzu was on the verge of signing for the club.
Club sources insisted that they had heard nothing regarding a deal being done, despite several commentators in the African media suggesting that negotiations were about to take place with the 23-year-old who is set to face minnows Lesotho in a World Cup qualifying match tomorrow.
It is understood that Sunderland still plan for the player to return to Wearside – they will have a scout at the weekend’s match – for another look at a player who over the past 12 months has been linked with moves to Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, and saw a transfer to Reading collapse in January at the last minute.
Sunzu’s club, TP Mazembe of Congo, are looking for £4m for the player who was a key part of his country’s victory in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
He spent a week at the Academy of Light, but an ankle injury that could keep him out of tomorrow’s game disrupted his trial period at the club.
REPUBLIC of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni believes Leeds midfielder Paul Green could be his country’s answer to Nobby Stiles. Trapattoni has preferred Green to Wigan’s James McCarthy for his side’s vital World Cup qualifier in Sweden.
Trapattoni said: “International games are a little bit different physically, in attitude, mentality, personality. Paul Green has the attitude. There are famous names – Gattuso. There have been players in England. Remember Nobby Stiles?”
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND TEAM: Forde, Coleman, O’Shea, Clark, Wilson, Brady, Green, Whelan, McClean, Keane, Long.