McClean slams Sunderland's handling of poppy controversy

Sunderland have come under criticism from former player James McClean for their handling of his decision not to wear a commemorative poppy.

James McClean has slammed former club Sunderland for 'hanging him out to dry' over his decision not to wear a poppy on his shirt to mark Remembrance Day while at the club.

The winger first refused the gesture in November 2012, and did likewise when playing for Wigan Athletic earlier this season.

McClean made the decision due to being born in Derry, where 14 people were killed when British soldiers fired on civilian protesters during 'Bloody Sunday' in 1972.

In a statement released ahead of Wigan's clash with Bolton in November, McClean explained that the poppy represents something very different to the people of his hometown, claiming wearing it would be "a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles – and Bloody Sunday especially."

However, McClean claims he was not afforded the same opportunity to explain his feelings when he took the stance at former club Sunderland.

The Republic of Ireland international told the Irish Independent: "They [Sunderland's fans] didn't understand. To them, I was disrespecting their country, disrespecting their fallen heroes, disrespecting their culture. I was getting booed every touch.

"When I asked to be allowed to speak about it, I was told that that was a bad idea, not to say anything and let it blow over. So it was kind of brushed under the table and I felt that that was more for the club's benefit than mine.

"When you think two years later I finally get to speak about it - for me, that's two years too late. I think I was hung out to dry by the press people at Sunderland."