McClean thriving under O'Neill

The Sunderland boss has a history of getting the best out of his players and James McClean is the latest to benefit from his famous man-management skills.

Martin O'Neill had never heard of James McClean when he arrived at Sunderland but the young winger has played an integral role in the Black Cats' resurgence under their new manager.

McClean's move to the Wearside outfit, for a fee of just GBP350,000 from Derry City, went relatively unnoticed during a period of heavy recruitment at the Stadium of Light last summer, and for the first four months of the season he did not make a first-team appearance.

But that all changed when O'Neill succeeded Steve Bruce in December, with the former Aston Villa manager handing the Irishman his senior debut by bringing him off the bench in his first game in charge.

O'Neill has worked wonders during his short tenure, with the Black Cats winning eight out of 12 games since the wily Irishman was appointed.

The Sunderland boss has a history of getting the best out of his players and McClean is the latest to benefit from his famous man-management skills.

Pacy wide-man McClean, 22, scored his third goal in 11 games for the club to secure a 1-0 victory at Stoke on Saturday and the Northern Irishman is making a big impression, not least on compatriot O'Neill.

“He is performing brilliantly for us,” O'Neill said. “He has had a great, great couple of months. I didn't know him at all until I arrived at the football club, so to see him blossoming out there has been very pleasing for everyone, obviously myself included.”

Sunderland defender John O'Shea echoed his manager's sentiments and the former Manchester United man has no doubt there is more to come from McClean.

“James has been superb. His goal against Stoke was fantastic and he really has been inspirational for us over the last few weeks,” O'Shea told the club's official website.

“The goal (against Stoke) came from a nice little move and you saw the composure James had to slot the ball home with his right foot.

“It was a fantastic finish and James is getting better and better. He's dealing with opponents well, learning the game quickly and adapting very well to the Premier League.

“James knows that different full-backs cause different problems. He can cut inside, outside and threaten in behind with his pace and power, which causes defenders lots of problems.”

The Black Cats' rising star has been tipped for a call-up to the Republic of Ireland squad for the first time this week.

The former Derry City man has been awaiting clearance from FIFA after deciding to switch his allegiances from Northern Ireland to the Republic.

And if McClean gets the green light, he could be lining up for his adopted country in a friendly against the Czech Republic at the end of this month.

O'Neill has no doubt the winger would take a call-up to Giovanni Trapattoni's Republic of Ireland squad in his stride and the Sunderland boss believes the youngster is capable of making an impact in the European Championship this summer.

He said: “I don't think he would have a problem with it. I can understand Trapattoni being very loyal to a group of players that he's worked with for the last two years and who have seen him through.

“But I think that they would have to have a serious look at James and the form he is showing. My own view is that he would be a genuine asset to them, but I do stress it is my own view.

“I am not telling Trapattoni how to conduct his affairs, which he is doing pretty well without my help.”

Regardless of whether he features on the international stage at Euro 2012, McClean has a bright future ahead of him and O'Neill must take credit for unearthing another gem.

© PA Sport, 2012, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.