Never any question regarding James McClean – Wigan Athletic boss
Leam Richardson admitted there was never any doubt in his mind about fielding James McClean for Wigan Athletic against Middlesbrough in midweek.
The Ireland international had again found himself thrust into the limelight after being on the receiving end of discriminatory chanting from some sections of the crowd at his former club Sunderland at the weekend.
After McClean took to social media on Sunday evening to call on the authorities on finally making a stand, Sunderland made their own statement, along with the FA and the EFL.
Latics themselves put out a statement just 45 minutes prior to the Middlesbrough game, but Richardson insists all that was never going to influence his team selection.
"James is a fantastic professional," he said. "Football clubs and organisations make statements all the time.
"In my opinion, as long as it's football related, I don't think anybody minds a bit of stick every now and then.
"But when it gets personal, it moves into a different category of abuse, and then it becomes a problem.
"In modern society, it's always the minority, but they're often the loudest.
"As far as James is concerned...what a fantastic professional and what a fantastic person."
Latics' statement had been signed off by chief executive Mal Brannigan.
"Wigan Athletic has always prided itself on being an inclusive family club and will work hard to remain one moving forward," it read.
"Unfortunately, the recent actions of both home and away fans, whilst a minority and not representative of the values held by any club, have brought into focus that there is still work to be done on improving and creating a safer fan experience.
"Wigan Athletic believes that it has a duty to protect the safety, personal beliefs and values of any individual who is either associated with the football club or is a visitor to its stadium, on condition that such beliefs and values are law-abiding ones.
"Wigan Athletic does not and will not tolerate any form of deliberate discrimination or hate crime towards its players, staff or supporters, and nor will it allow this behaviour towards anyone who visits the DW Stadium from anyone associated with our football club.
"In the event that any fan or member of staff displays such behaviour, the club will proactively work with the appropriate authorities to determine what further action should be taken.
"Football, as a collective of participants and fans, reflects all of society’s values and beliefs; such values and beliefs are held precious to each individual and where those values and beliefs are private, they should be respected.
"There have been too many times in the last few seasons where the tolerance of another’s beliefs has been sadly lacking and the vitriolic abuse levelled at them has been beyond acceptable.
"Football has made enormous strides in recent years to stamp out this level of abuse, but as an industry it needs to maintain its hard work in eradicating all discriminatory behaviour, and Wigan Athletic will continue to play its part in this process."
Sunderland's statement read: “Sunderland AFC has a zero-tolerance policy against all forms of discrimination.
“The club is committed to providing an inclusive, family-friendly environment at the Stadium of Light and strongly condemns any supporter found to be engaging in any form of discriminatory behaviour.
“Whilst the majority of fans behave impeccably when supporting SAFC, there have been multiple incidents during the 2022-23 season that are unacceptable and have resulted in ejection, stadium bans and criminal investigations.
“Everyone attending, working or taking part in a football match at the Stadium of Light has the right to feel safe, valued and included and the club encourages all supporters to continue to play their part.”
The FA statement read: "We strongly condemn all forms of discriminatory and offensive chanting.
"Any participants or fans who believe that they have been subject of, or are witness to, discrimination are encouraged to report it through the correct channels: The FA, the relevant club or via our partners at Kick It Out.
"The FA looks into any alleged discriminatory language or behaviour that is reported to us, and we work closely with the clubs and relevant authorities to ensure appropriate action is taken."
The EFL statement read: “The EFL condemns all forms of discriminatory and offensive chanting and will provide assistance wherever appropriate in respect of any investigations undertaken by the Club, FA and other authorities.
“The league has worked with other football bodies in the past and will continue to do so in the future to provide support for James.
“At the beginning of the season the EFL issued guidance to clubs to support their match day operations to tackle discriminatory behaviour and hate crime.”
McClean himself had written, clearly from the heart: "Where to start really, for my son who is seven years old, and watches every Wigan game either being at the stadium or on Latics TV, to be asking his mother 'why are they booing and singing that song at daddy?' and to have to tiptoe around answering him is something which should not be happening.
"This post is not one of sympathy (trust me, it's not wanted) but one of anger.
"Considering every single year we have a FA representative come into each club to discuss the same old crap they spew to us about discrimination, every single year I challenge them on the abuse, every single year they do nothing.
"This clip is one of yesterday, which can be heard clearly of one particular chat, as well as other chats of 'f**k the Pope and IRA’ being sung by the majority of the 30k crowd, as well as numerous individual chants of 'fenian b*****d', 'fenian c**t', 'you dirty Irish c**t' (while displaying a tribute before the game honouring Niall Quinn, who is also the same nationality as myself...couldn't make the stupidity up).
"Now everyone who attended the game would have heard this loud and clear, including the match referee, officials and other officials.
"I should not have to report every single incident when clearly they can all hear what I hear, and they should be doing their jobs by taking action.
"I would be lying if I was to say I expect anything to be done about this by the FA or the EFL (history shows this), but here is another chance for sure.
"And I certainly don't expect any action to be taken by Sunderland FC themselves, given they did nothing when I was their player."
That had brought the following response from Latics chairman Talal Al Hammad.
"As a club, we are doing everything in our power to stop this from happening, however more importantly as mature adults, this should not be happening," he wrote.
"Your behaviour is watched by those younger than you, children, teenagers; the younger generation and is a disgraceful demonstration of how one should behave.
"So much emphasis and effort is put into the younger generation and the prevention in bullying - how can we teach kids to not bully other children as school when adults are doing it themselves.
"Hurting a human emotionally is as equal as hurting them physically; how come physical abuse has consequences but this doesn't?
"More times than not, action is only taken when it's too late, when a person has been hurt either by other ‘adults’ or by themselves after enduring emotional and mental abuse.
"It is shameful and disgusting and needs to stop.”