Paulo Di Canio has called time on the James McClean project at Sunderland after accepting an undisclosed bid from Championship side Wigan.
The deal confirms McClean’s fate as surplus goods under Di Canio’s regime, which has brought in nine fresh faces into the fold, including Italian winger Emanuel Giaccherini from Juventus.
McClean joined Sunderland in August 2011 from Northern Ireland side Derry City as a player that then-manager Steve Bruce claimed was “one for the future.” Bruce figured the winger would begin in the youth development side and eventually make his way up.
But McClean had other plans and by December, he had looked a real find. With Bruce out and Martin O’Neill in, the Republic of Ireland international was brought on as a substitute in O’Neill’s first game with the club. Down 1-0 to Blackburn, McClean’s ferocious hunger and athleticism spurred the Black Cats to turn the match on its head, winning 2-1.
McClean went on to prove himself a menace on the left side of the pitch, notching five goals and two assists in just one half of a season, earning him Sunderland’s Young Player of the Year Award for 2011–12. For the $541,000 (£350k) it cost to bring McClean to the Premier League, he was arguably one of the bargain signings of the season.
But the fall was as quick as the rise, as McClean’s 2012-13 campaign was one to forget. Defenders quickly learned that his first touch was one of a brick when closed down quickly. What served as grit and determination in 2011-12 quickly turned to frustration for McClean. The boy had an edge, no doubt, but he also had a temper that reared its head at all the wrong times.
While Di Canio’s overhaul of the Black Cats makes it little surprise that McClean has gotten axed, it is a little curious given their similarities that the fiery Italian did not look to take McClean under his wing. But, sometimes similarities clash rather than gel and at the end of the day, it’s all a business. i
McClean still has talent though and could make quite an impact in the Championship. His pending arrival could also indicate that the Latics are not yet done dealing in this summer’s transfer market, and that Callum McManaman or Shaun Maloney could be on their way out of the DW Stadium.
Once personal terms are agreed to and a medical is passed, McClean will join a family of James’ in Owen Coyle’s midfield, alongside fellow namesakes McCarthy and McArthur.