REPUBLIC of Ireland winger James McClean has called for his decision not to wear a Rememberance Day poppy on his jersey for Stoke's upcoming games to be respected.
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.
But in a statement today, the Irishman's current employers Stoke City said they "respect his decision and his right to follow his own convictions".
The Championship club also confirmed 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.
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.
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) 30 October 2018
"James has informed us that he will not be wearing a Remembrance Day poppy in our next two games. We respect his decision and his right to follow his own convictions."
The player himself released his own brief statement, which read: "I know many people won’t agree with my decision or even attempt to gain an understanding of why I don’t wear a poppy.
"I accept that but I would ask people to be respectful of the choice I have made, just as I’m respectful of people who do choose to wear a poppy."
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.