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Controversial West Brom star James McClean: I won’t wear the Poppy

By GRAHAM HILL

Controversial West Brom star James McClean has revealed he will again refuse to wear a Remembrance Day Poppy on his club shirt.

The Republic of Ireland winger is at the centre of an FA probe into his bust-up with former Sunderland team-mates after he goaded Black Cats fans at the end of Saturday’s 1-0 triumph.

Sunderland supporters had taunted him over his support of the Irish Republican movement by singing “God Save The Queen” and “F*** the IRA.”

Derry-born McClean, 26, was later branded a “maggot” as he was bombarded with vile Twitter abuse — but hit back yesterday by posting a picture of his after-match celebration which had sparked the ugly melee.

And in Albion’s Saturday match programme, McClean wrote: “We are coming up to Remembrance Day and I won’t wear a poppy on my shirt. People say I am being disrespectful but don’t ask why I choose not to wear it.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23: James McClean of West Bromwich Albion arrives for the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea at The Hawthorns on August 23, 2015 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

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“If the poppy was simply about World War One and Two victims alone, I’d wear it without a problem.

“I would wear it everyday of the year if that was the thing but it doesn’t, it stands for all the conflicts that Britain has been involved in. Because of the history where I come from in Derry, I cannot wear something that represents that.”

McClean refused to wear the poppy at previous clubs Sunderland and Wigan.

But he has already had one warning from Baggies boss Tony Pulis for refusing to turn and face the English flag during an anthem ceremony on a pre-season friendly in the USA.

McClean added: “My attitude is to live and let live, honestly, and I don’t think we should have any ideas forced on us just as I don’t want to force my ideas on anyone else.

“The Albion fans have been great to me and I just want to put it out in black and white why I do what I do and give my side of the story.

“If I were to sing the British national anthem, then that would be disrespectful to the place I come from.

“A lot of people are still hurting there and so I can’t pretend that that didn’t happen.”

Sunderland fans have not forgotten he chose not to wear a poppy during a game at Everton in November 2012.

But McClean added: “From there I suddenly went from being the golden boy to having Sunderland supporters booing me and as a young player I found it really hard to deal with.

“And I probably didn’t explain the situation the way I’m trying to here.”

Last night, a picture emerged of McClean wearing an Easter Lily emblem — which is associated with the IRA — on his Wigan tracksuit.

But in a 2014 letter to then Wigan chairman Dave Whelan, McClean insisted: “‘I am not a war monger, or anti-British, or a terrorist. I am a peaceful guy. I want my daughter to grow up in a peaceful world.

“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.

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

It is understood that while Albion felt McClean’s summer anthem gesture was a step too far, the club view the non-wearing of a poppy as a freedom of expression issue.

However, the FA have punished players before for taunting opposition fans and McClean could face action as referee Martin Atkinson included his actions in his report.

In 2009, Emmanuel Adebayor was given a suspended two-match ban and fined £25,000 for improper conduct for his goal celebration for Manchester City against ex-club Arsenal.

Gary Neville was fined £5,000 and issued with a formal warning about his future conduct for goading the Liverpool fans in 2006 when playing for Manchester United.