A lot has been said, and written, about the emergence of the Republic of Ireland's James McClean since his inclusion in the nation's squad for Euro 2012. McClean only added fuel to the fire this weekend with his performance against Bosnia.
Against Bosnia, McClean didn't have his best game, but he showed exactly why fans have been desperate to see him on the field.
He may not have scored or played a major role in Shane Long's sole goal of the game, but McClean's ability to carve open defenses and beat fullbacks was evident throughout the game. Not only was he excellent with the ball at his feet, McClean also demanded the football more than once from his teammates showing that shyness isn't an issue despite that being his full international debut.
There is quite a lot of talk, mostly from fans, being excited about the prospect of Giovanni Trapattoni changing his attitude toward the team. On the verge of a major competition, after a campaign of rigid approach after rigid approach, not to mention a whole career to define his approach and tactics, the notion that Trapattoni is going to play a more expansive game is simply nonsense.
Trapattoni does not need to alter his tactical approach one single iota in order to include James McClean in his starting 11.
While the most startling aspect of McClean's performance at the weekend was his attitude toward his teammates, the most impressive was his work-rate. It comes as no surprise to anyone who has watched McClean play before, whether it be at Derry City or with Sunderland in the Premier League this past season, that he has a phenomenal attitude towards defending.
Against Bosnia, McClean showed off the enthusiasm that one would expect from a fresh face getting an opportunity to start for the first time. That enthusiasm consisted of running for 90 minutes up and down the wing ahead of Stephen Ward.
There were times when McClean was caught out of position, and the team were exposed to a counter, but McClean showed the determination and desire to sprint back and pressure the ball-carrier. It was noted by commentators during the game that McClean faded in the second half and made less of an impact on the game in attack.
That is true, but throughout the 90 minutes, he never once exposed his full-back by forgetting his defensive responsibilities. If the tactical approach only requires a winger to attack, McClean's defensive work would be irrelevant, but in Trapattoni's philosophy, wingers are asked to defend as much as fullbacks.
Undoubtedly Trapattoni would have taken note of McClean's constant running and will excuse his fading from the game considering the circumstances.
McClean is one of the fittest players in the Irish squad, at least that's how he appears on the field, and played the full 90 minutes against Bosnia in very hot conditions. To make it worse, McClean switched wings at halftime spending most of each half playing in the sunnier side of the field.
That may not seem important, but when wingers are asked to work as hard as Trapattoni's system requires them to, it is very important.
You see Trapattoni has never had as conservative an attitude with his wingers as he does his central midfielders. Neither Damien Duff or Aiden McGeady are limited attackers, but both are willing workers. Just like Stephen Hunt, Duff, McGeady and even Jonathan Walters, McClean has the required motor to improve the Irish first team.
When you are playing against such quality opposition as Croatia, Spain and Italy, Ireland must enter those games looking to score on the counter while defending with all 11 men on the field. Just like Kevin Doyle showed at the weekend that he will be, McClean's endless running, and extensive ability, will make him a perfect fit in that philosophy.
Trust is often considered an obstacle to McClean's chances at being a starter for Ireland at Euro 2012. Despite his perception, Giovanni Trapattoni is a passionate man. He hasn't had such a decorated career by being scared, cautious maybe, but not scared. With McClean, Trapattoni will see a willing worker, talented footballer and vessel who could instantly implement what he is taught through coaching.
Considering Martin O'Neil had no issue incorporating him into his Sunderland side this year, Trapattoni shouldn't, and likely won't, have any issue playing him either.
Don't make the mistake thinking that James McClean is another Andy Reid, Stephen Ireland or Wes Hoolahan. Even with Ireland, Trapattoni appears willing to play him if he was available. That should be no surprise because Ireland played on the wing when he last appeared for the Republic.
James McClean should start for Ireland at Euro 2012, and it shouldn't surprise anyone if he does.
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