Wigan Athletic old-boy reiterates ‘no poppy’ stance

James McClean
James McClean

Former Wigan Athletic winger James McClean has confirmed he will not wear a Remembrance Day poppy on his shirt for Stoke’s upcoming games against Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest.

The Republic of Ireland international, who joined Stoke in the summer, took the same decision at previous clubs Sunderland, West Brom and Latics.

The 29-year-old is a native of Derry, Northern Ireland, site of Bloody Sunday in 1972.

McClean said in a statement issued by the club: “I know many people won’t agree with my decision or even attempt to gain an understanding of why I don’t wear a poppy.

“I accept that but I would ask people to be respectful of the choice I have made, just as I’m respectful of people who do choose to wear a poppy.”

Stoke host Boro in the Championship on Saturday and travel to Forest the following weekend.

The statement added that other players would be wearing poppies on shirts at both fixtures.

It continued: “However, we recognise that the poppy means different things to different individuals and communities and (like the Royal British Legion) do not believe that anybody should be forced or even pressured to wear the poppy against their free will.

“James has informed us that he will not be wearing a Remembrance Day poppy in our next two games. We respect his decision and his right to follow his own convictions.”

During his time with Wigan, McClean wrote an open letter in 2014 to then-chairman Dave Whelan to explain his situation in more details.

It read: “Dear Mr Whelan, I wanted to write to you before talking about this face to face and explain my reasons for not wearing a poppy on my shirt for the game at Bolton.

“I have complete respect for those who fought and died in both World Wars - many I know were Irish-born.

“I have been told that your own Grandfather Paddy Whelan, from Tipperary, was one of those.

“I mourn their deaths like every other decent person and if the Poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War I and II I would wear one.

“I want to make that 100 per cent clear. You must understand this.

“But the Poppy is used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me.

“For people from the North of Ireland such as myself, and specifically those in Derry, scene of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, the poppy has come to mean something very different.

“Please understand, Mr Whelan, that when you come from Creggan like myself or the Bogside, Brandywell or the majority of places in Derry, every person still lives in the shadow of one of the darkest days in Ireland’s history – even if like me you were born nearly 20 years after the event.

“It is just a part of who we are, ingrained into us from birth.

“Mr Whelan, for me to wear a poppy would be as much a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles – and Bloody Sunday especially - as I have in the past been accused of disrespecting the victims of WWI and WWII.

“It would be seen as an act of disrespect to those people; to my people.

“I am not a war monger, or anti-British, or a terrorist or any of the accusations levelled at me in the past.

“I am a peaceful guy, I believe everyone should live side by side, whatever their religious or political beliefs which I respect and ask for people to respect mine in return.

“Since last year, I am a father and I want my daughter to grow up in a peaceful world, like any parent.

“I am very proud of where I come from and I just cannot do something that I believe is wrong. In life, if you’re a man you should stand up for what you believe in.

“I know you may not agree with my feelings but I hope very much that you understand my reasons.

“As the owner of the club I am proud to play for, I believe I owe both you and the club’s supporters this explanation.”