Wigan Athletic star backed to play on and emulate Real Madrid icon

Wigan Athletic star James McClean has vowed to prolong his playing career for as long as possible - after Ireland manager Stephen Kenny tipped him to follow in Luka Modric’s footsteps.
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The 34-year-old old - Latics' player of the year - will win his 100th senior cap for his country in Monday night’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Gibraltar in Dublin.

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And the Ireland boss marked the achievement by handing him the captain’s armband.

James McClean is not ready to hang up his boots just yetJames McClean is not ready to hang up his boots just yet
James McClean is not ready to hang up his boots just yet
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Kenny voiced the opinion last week that McClean is so fit, there is no reason he cannot do what Croatia star Modric has done and play international football at the age of 37.

Asked if that was in his mind, McClean said: “Physically I feel great. I don’t feel I have slowed down too much.

"If I stay injury-free and I’m still enjoying it, if I continue to get picked, why not?”

Derry-born McClean won his first cap for Ireland as a substitute against the Czech Republic in February 2012 during his time at Sunderland, and was part of the squads which qualified for the finals of both Euro 2012 and 2016.

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A winger by trade, he has scored winning goals in key World Cup qualifiers in Austria and Wales, but latterly has been used by Kenny as a wing-back.

He will join some of Ireland’s biggest names in reaching a century with only Robbie Keane, Shay Given, John O’Shea, Kevin Kilbane, Steve Staunton and Damien Duff currently ahead of him.

Speaking before Kenny confirmed he will start the game, McClean said: “To hopefully get 100 caps and join the illustrious names on that list will be pretty special, not just for my family, but everyone who helped me make that happen.”

McClean, who won his 99th cap as a substitute in Greece on Friday evening, will hope to reach his personal landmark in style after a bruising experience for him and his team-mates in Athens.

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But for all the big nights he has enjoyed in a green shirt, McClean insists the honour of pulling it on in the first place represents the biggest thrill.

Asked what was his proudest moment on the international stage, he said: “Representing Ireland.

“Being able to do that just once was special. I’ve never hidden the fact of how proud I am to be Irish.

"To be given the opportunity to step on the pitch and effect games for your country, that’s what I’m proudest of.”