English FA investigating after rival fans ‘threw bottles and coins’ at Irish player James McClean over refusal to wear poppy
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English FA investigating after rival fans ‘threw bottles and coins’ at Irish player James McClean over refusal to wear poppy

THE English FA have announced they are examining claims Huddersfield fans threw missiles at poppy-shunning Irish footballer James McClean at the weekend.

McClean, who came on for West Bromwich Albion as a 59th minute substitute, was subjected to taunts over his much-publicised refusal to wear the poppy flower symbol during Saturday’s match.

Tensions spilled over when the 28-year-old Derry native put in a touch challenge against Terriers winger Tom Ince late into the game, which his side went on to lose 1-0.

After “bottles, coins and lighters” were thrown at McClean, he later complained on Instagram about an alleged lack of coverage of the incident.

In a post, he said it was “convenient” that BBC’s Match of the Day programme picked up his tackle without covering the actions of Huddersfield’s fans.

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“PS launching bottles and other objects from up in the stands makes you cowards, not hard men,” he added.

McClean has attracted anger – and even death threats – from fans of rival English football clubs for a number of years over his refusal to wear the poppy.

In 2014, the Irishman explained to his then chairman, Dave Whelan of Wigan Athletic, why he would not agree to wear the pin.

In a letter he wrote: “I have complete respect for those who fought and died in both World Wars – many I know were Irish-born.

“But the poppy is used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me.

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“For people from the North of Ireland such as myself, and specifically those in Derry, scene of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, the poppy has come to mean something very different.

“Please understand, Mr. Whelan, that when you come from Creggan like myself or the Bogside, Brandywell or the majority of places in Derry, every person still lives in the shadow of one of the darkest days in Ireland’s history.

“Mr. Whelan, for me to wear a poppy would be as much a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles – and Bloody Sunday especially – as I have in the past been accused of disrespecting the victims of WWI and WWII.”

In a statement on Wednesday night, the FA said: “We have received the match officials’ report and will be seeking observations from Huddersfield Town.”

CCTV images of the alleged incident will be reviewed later this week before the information is fed back to the FA.

Anyone identified as having thrown missiles at McClean could be brought to court and hit with a lifetime football banning order.