Republic of Ireland player James McClean has admitted that he felt 'naive' to think that other Irish players in England would follow his stance around not wearing the poppy.
Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day owing to the tradition of wearing a remembrance poppy) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth member states since the end of the First World War in 1919 to honor armed forces members who have died in the line of duty.
McClean, who hails from Derry, has come under fire from opposition fans and the media for not wearing the symbol and has never wavered from his stance on the issue. The decision to do so has created a media firestorm ever since.
The Ireland player and his family have also received a ton of abuse from fans in that period. McClean has called out the FA for their lack of conviction and action around tackling the abuse on more than one occasion.
McClean, who now plays for Wrexham in Wales, was speaking to Sky Sports and revealed how his efforts to get the younger players on a similar pathway have not come to pass despite his best efforts to do so.
For 11 years, James McClean has been flooded with death threats and ill wishes too atrocious to type out. His family have lived in fear, they've been traumatised. This is their story of an exhausting battle and a tale of perception versus reality:https://t.co/cDonNCtcgE
— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) September 18, 2023
"Yeah, look, maybe I was a bit naive in thinking, you know, with me being the one that took the stand first, it'll pave the way for young Irish lads coming through, and it doesn't seem to be the case," he told Sky Sports.
"I speak to a lot of people, and I've had players say that they don't believe in wearing the poppy and they wouldn't wear it, but they just don't want the hassle.
"So in a way, you know, I was kind of hoping that by me doing it, that would open a door for them to kind of do that themselves when they're doing something that they don't want to do.
"But probably they're afraid of the backlash, and that's fine. You know what you don't want because it's horrific abuse and it can be quite taxing.
"So I understand why they don't want that. But I'm always of the belief that if you don't believe in something, then, you know, take a stand."
The Ireland centurion is well aware that he won't be able to change people's perception about him, but also openly admits that the perception that people see and the reality that people don't see are two very different things.
"The perception and reality are two completely different things," he added.
"The people that judge me don't know me. Never spent time with me. You have two sides. You have someone with one set of values and someone with other values. I'm just asking for respect.
“I wouldn't say: 'Oh, look at him wearing a poppy.' It doesn't bother me that people have their views. I understand that people have different values from me and different beliefs. I respect that. Just because I don't fall in line, that doesn't mean I disrespect or I hate you."