JAMES McClean is looking forward to returning to the north east tonight for the first time since his move to Wigan.
And the ex-Sunderland man is more than ready for the ‘warm’ welcome that will be waiting for him from the Middlesbrough faithful.
McClean is hoping to build on his match-winning performance at the weekend, when he created the first and scored the second as Latics overcame Crystal Palace 2-1 to advance to the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Another starring show may makes him even more unpopular on the Teesside terraces, but it’s something he’s willing to put up with.
“I’m expecting a nice reception being a former Sunderland player – it’s like that up in the north east,” he told the Evening Post.
“It doesn’t bother me at all – I take it as a compliment to be honest.
“If you were a nobody they wouldn’t bother to boo, that’s the way I see it.”
And despite keeping Latics on the Wembley trail, McClean admits it’s back to the real business at the Riverside Stadium.
“As good as the FA Cup is, our priority is to get back into the Premier League,” he added.
“We need to keep picking up the points, hopefully another three on Tuesday night, and build some more momentum.
“Whether that takes us to the play-offs or hopefully even automatic promotion, we’ll see.”
Latics will be aiming to get back to winning ways in the Championship at Middlesbrough, having been beaten 3-0 at Doncaster in their last league outing.
That remains the only blip in Uwe Rosler’s first 10 domestic matches – a remarkable turnaround considering Latics had lost the previous six matches on the spin.
It’s clear the side is playing with more confidence and belief than they have all season, and Rosler is keen to give the players all the credit.
“You would have to ask the players, because it’s mostly about them,” Rosler recognised.
“Sometimes it’s a change of daily routines, a different voice, a slightly different way of playing, everybody feels they have a chance to impress, or a combination of all of those factors.
“As long as you are fair with the players and let them know what you want, they will respond.
“Everybody is here at the football club to achieve success, but it’s all about consistency, and maintaining high standards.
“It’s good to achieve for five or six weeks, but we need to make it that way every week until the end of the season.
“The players have been fantastic with me so far, there has only been one blip at Doncaster.
“As a group we learned a lot from that game, and the reaction against Crystal Palace was very, very good.
“We need to take that confidence back into the league, but it won’t be easy at Middlesbrough. They are a tough proposition but we will be ready for them.”