James McClean booed off pitch for not wearing a Remembrance poppy

James McClean booed off pitch for not wearing a Remembrance poppy

REPUBLIC of Ireland winger James McClean was verbally abused by multiple fans at the weekend.

McClean was playing for Stoke City against Middlesborough when a group of men were filmed screaming and booing at the player.

The 29-year-old, who began his career at his local side Derry City, has attracted controversy over the years for taking the same decision at previous clubs Sunderland, Wigan and West Brom.

Despite Stoke City confirming they will be supporting the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal by wearing embroidered poppies on their shirts against Middlesbrough on November 3 and Nottingham Forest on November 10, there is no enforcement of each player to wear the poppy.

Stoke City said they "respect his decision and his right to follow his own convictions".

A club spokesperson said: "The club is proud of its close connections with the armed forces and have also invited members of the armed forces to join our remembrance at the Middlesbrough fixture.

"However, we recognise that the poppy means different things to different individuals and communities and (like the Royal British Legion) do not believe that anybody should be forced or even pressured to wear the poppy against their free will."

McClean has been variously criticised and supported for his ongoing refusal to wear football shirts bearing the poppy symbol around Rememberance Day (November 11) fixtures since his Premier League debut with Sunderland in 2012.

His objection derives from a "gesture of disrespect" towards those who died in the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry.

The midfielder has continually insisted his position is one of peace, and not any kind of wider political, religious or anti-British point – despite being booed by opposition supporters for his stance on a regular basis and receiving death threats from loyalist extremists.

The British Legion itself does not believe in compelling people to wear the poppy, seeing such a belief as going against everything the poppy symbolises.