Albion man set to feature for Republic of Ireland in France
JAMES McClean is hoping for a totally opposite experience at Euro 2016 to the one he encountered at the European Championships four years ago.
The Baggies winger is part of the Republic of Ireland squad which will be tasked with securing safe passage into the last-16 from a group containing Italy, Belgium and Sweden.
The finals in France will be the Irishman’s second visit to a major international tournament after also being involved with his nation at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
McClean was disappointed to only make one appearance during that competition as a late substitute in the Republic of Ireland’s final group game against Spain, but the 27-year-old is confident he can play a more pivotal role for his country this time around.
He said: “I went to the last European Championships with Ireland but it was a mixed time for me and for the team.
“It was great to be there but the football didn’t go as I wanted it, and we were knocked out in the group stages.
“I had just had my breakthrough season at Sunderland and the media were putting a lot of pressure on the manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, to take me to the Euros.
“In the end, he selected me for the squad and of course, I was ecstatic about that and couldn’t wait to go but as I say, it didn’t really work out how I would have wanted.
“When the manager was interviewed before the tournament he said that he was only taking me along for the experience and that I wasn’t going to play.
“That knocked me back a bit and so it was a frustrating time instead of a really exciting one.
“I eventually got 15 minutes in the last game against Spain when we were 3-0 down and it was great to get on and play but you’re not going to turn that game round from there.
“All the same, I played in the Euros and that was an honour and it does give you the taste for doing more of that.
“This time, I feel much more like a part of the squad, I feel like an established international now.
“I’ve played the majority of the games in qualifying where last time, I didn’t play any, so I feel much more part of things having made that contribution.
“Now that we are there, I’m hoping I can go and have a good tournament and get rid of some of the demons from the last one.”
McClean added: “Belgium, Italy and Sweden are all big names but I don’t think they’ll be looking forward to playing us either.
“Our attitude has to be that, however tough the games are going to be for us, we’re going to make sure that all the opposition teams have just as tough a 90 minutes against us.
“Belgium have been one of the big teams in Europe for the last few years now, Italy always seem to be able to put it together when a tournament comes around and Sweden are very consistent too, they’ve got some great players and you never know what Ibrahimovic might do.
“But it’s three games, all one-offs in their way, and a lot of things can happen.
“Hopefully we’ll be smiling come the end of the group and we can make it into the knock-out stages.”