Bruised McClean feels ‘like proper centre-forward’

Wigan Athletic's James McClean battles for the ball with Sheffield Wednesday's Joe Mattock
Wigan Athletic's James McClean battles for the ball with Sheffield Wednesday's Joe Mattock

JAMES McClean admits he’s feeling ‘like a proper centre-forward’ at the moment.

He’s even got the bruises to show for it!

The 24-year-old has switched from the left wing since Malky Mackay took charge in November, and is restoring his manager’s faith and then some.

Two goals and an assist in his last three league appearances – not to mention three man-of-the-match awards – show he is making his mark down the middle.

And he is relishing the physical aspect of his new role in the side.

“I’ve had a few centre-backs kicking lumps out of me lately,” he told the Evening Post.

“I feel like a proper centre-forward – I’ve got the markings to show for it!

“I don’t mind that to be honest, as long as they don’t mind getting kicked back.

“It’s part and parcel of the game – you give me, I’ll give you some – I won’t be intimidated by that aspect of the game.”

McClean’s refusal to back down from the physical challenge saw him play out the last 15 minutes of last weekend’s clash at Birmingham on one leg, with Latics having made all three substitutions.

“I got a knock towards the end of the previous game at Bolton and, typical of the way it’s going, I got another kick on the same place at Birmimgham,” he explained.

“It was a bit uncomfortable, a bit sore, but I’m all right now.”

McClean can expect to be in the wars again this weekend when Blackburn visit the DW.

He was involved in a running battle with Rovers defender Grant Hanley in Wigan’s 4-3 defeat at Ewood on the final day of last term.

And he’s got even more motivation to run the Rovers rearguard ragged this time around.

“One of my best mates is their other centre-half, Shane Duffy, so I’ll be looking forward to hopefully giving him a tough day as well,” the Ireland star revealed.

“I speak to him on a regular basis and I’m sure there’s been a bit of banter going back and forward in the last few days.

“It gives you a little bit more incentive to go out there and do well, but you want to play well and win regardless of whether you’re having messing about or playing a top-level game.”

While both Latics and Rovers were tipped to be promotion contenders this term, only one of the teams has lived up to its pre-season billing.

But with Latics desperate for the points to drag themselves out of the mire, both sides will be going all-out for three points tomorrow afternoon.

“Blackburn are doing all right this season, although they got beat at the weekend so they’ll be looking to bounce back,” McClean said.

“We’ve got 21 games left and time’s running out for us.

“We keep saying ‘next game’, ‘next game’, ‘next game’, but this is our next game and we need to win it.

“It’s a derby, and if that doesn’t fire us up then nothing will.

“In a funny way we tend to play better against the so-called top teams in this division. On paper our squad should be up there challenging as well – but we’re not.We’re second bottom and promotion looks to have gone – the aim now is to get out of the trouble we’re in.”

McClean has also welcomed the return from injury of fellow forward Martyn Waghorn, with the pair showing signs of understanding during the second half at Birmingham.

“Waggy is an intelligent player, he was dropping off and getting on the ball which allowed me to run in behind,” McClean added.

“It’s always good when you have players who can interchange and during then time we were on the pitch we struck up a good understanding considering it’s the first time we’d played up front together.”