McClean eyes further involvement

The 22-year-old Northern Irishman was handed a senior debut for the

club by compatriot Martin O’Neill in his first game in charge at

the Stadium of Light last Sunday. McClean produced a fine cameo

display after replacing Jack Colback as a 76th-minute substitute,

and his arrival has been cited by many as a significant factor in

the Black Cats’ late fightback which turned a 1-0 deficit into a

2-1 victory. The former Derry City midfielder was thrilled to

finally make his first appearance after waiting patiently for his

chance, and although he is taking nothing for granted ahead of

Sunday’s tough trip to Tottenham, he is desperate to establish

himself in new manager O’Neill’s long-term plans. He said: “It’s

only one game and I can take nothing for granted. “I am just going

to continue to work hard and try to improve, and if the manager

calls upon me, then I am ready and I want to repay his faith in me.

“I came over and my only aspirations were to try to get into the

team. “I knew that wasn’t going to happen straight away and that I

had to work hard at it and hopefully impress the manager, which I

seem to have done, and now I want to repay the faith he has shown

in me. “It’s nice to get the debut out of the way, and the next

thing now is to get a start and make myself a regular in the team,

which is the aim.” McClean was signed by former boss Steve Bruce

for £350,000 during the summer, and although he had been

involved in the first team squad before Sunday’s game, it was

O’Neill who finally handed him the chance to show what he could do

on the big stage. His direct style made him an instant hit with the

Stadium of Light faithful – he announced his arrival by skipping

past Blackburn’s Mauro Formica on the left before firing in a

dangerous cross – and there will no doubt be a clamour for his

inclusion during the busy Christmas period. McClean said: “That’s

always been my game, I have never changed that and I am never going

to change it. “I get excitement out of getting the ball and getting

at defenders and if I don’t get past them the first two or three

times, I am just going to keep trying. “When I was told I was going

on, I was buzzing. The gaffer told me to go on and play my own game

and do what I do best, and that’s to get at defenders and put

crosses in. “That gave me confidence, that he was showing faith in

me.” O’Neill was delighted with the application his players showed

against Blackburn to fight their way back from a losing position –

David Vaughan’s equaliser arrived with just six minutes of normal

time remaining before Sebastian Larsson curled in an injury-time

free-kick – to secure only their third league win of the campaign.

But the degree of difficulty will rise significantly tomorrow when

Sunderland head for White Hart Lane to face top-four contenders

Spurs. They will do so with McClean keeping his fingers crossed

that he has done enough to persuade the manager he is worth another

go. However, he knows the fact that he and the 59-year-old are from

the same part of the world will not give him any advantage. He

said: “It’s obviously nice because you can chat about where you are

from, but I don’t think that changes anything in terms of team

selection or anything like that. “I still have to impress him, and

hopefully I can.”