Stoke City have chosen to suspend winger James McClean with immediate effect, as confirmed in a club statement published late Thursday night.
The Potters have stated that the Republic of Ireland international will not play their upcoming league game over an alleged breach of Covid rules.
McClean – a former player of West Brom, Wigan, Sunderland and Derry – will now miss Saturday’s Championship clash against Blackburn Rovers while the club launch an investigation into the matter.
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A brief but informative statement from the club read: “Stoke City can confirm that James McClean has been suspended with immediate effect pending a disciplinary hearing into an alleged breach of COVID-19 regulations, namely training in a private gym.
“As a result of the suspension, McClean will not be available for selection for Saturday’s game against Blackburn Rovers.”
The 31 year old has been a regular in Stoke City’s play-off push this season with the club picking up 35 points from 23 games played so far.
He has made a total of 21 appearances, as well as contributed two goals and two assists to help them challenge for the top end of the Championship table with the club 8th right now.
Stoke are still set to travel to Ewood Park on Saturday knowing a win in the afternoon could take them up into the top six.
McClean’s absence is disappointing for the club, but it is less a blow to them given that they have made new signings to the squad.
He should know better however after he tested positive in November while on international duty subsequently missing two games for his club while self-isolating.
O’Neill said: “He had a little bit of tiredness last week when he was with Ireland but he’s been working away in his gym at home.
“It’s hard to keep James down in terms of recovery and stop him doing exercise. He’s feeling ok within himself and we look forward to him coming back once he’s gone through the isolation period.”
They’re not the only side to have suspended players due to a breach in Covid rules.
McClean has often been in the limelight since joining from West Brom in 2018, making a stand against sectarian abuse, and lead calls for the Football Association and PFA to make a stronger stance.
He was also fined by the club in March 2020 after posting a photo of himself wearing a black balaclava over his head as he pretended to teach his kids.
He admitted he misjudged an attempted joke, and has since apologised and deleted the social media post as well as his Instagram account.
Two months ago we saw Rangers confirm that two of their players have been suspended by the club for attending a party and breaching coronavirus regulations.
The duo, George Edmundson and Jordan Jones, are now part of an internal investigation, which is set to take place, and both players will self-isolate for 14 days.
The Scottish Premiership side have issued a statement and the managing director, Stewart Robertson, has also had his say about the situation.
Rangers players Jordan Jones and George Edmundson have been handed seven-game bans by the SFA for breaking coronavirus protocols. 👇
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) November 19, 2020
Their statement read: “Rangers have been made aware of an incident last night involving two of our players, Jordan Jones and George Edmundson.
“Both players breached covid regulations by attending a private gathering with others outside of their household.
“We can confirm that both players will be suspended pending an internal investigation. On the instruction of Dr. Mark Waller, the players will also self isolate for 14 days.”
Stewart Robertson, the club’s Managing Director, commented: “The Chairman Douglas Park, Ross Wilson, Steven Gerrard and I discussed this matter as soon as it was brought to our attention.
“We are completely aligned in our action and the standards that are being set at Rangers.
“We will not tolerate behaviour that does not follow those standards and it is totally unacceptable for any of our players to be involved in anything that puts at risk the excellent protocols that have been put in place at Rangers.”
And more recently, two unnamed Oxford United players have been suspended and could face the sack over allegations the pair attended a New Year’s Eve party.
The U’s, who currently sit 12th in the League One table, haven’t revealed what the conclusion of their investigation into the breach of Covid protocols by the youngsters, one of whom plays for the Under 21s and the other for the Under 18s.
There were reports claiming that senior figures at the club initially wanted the pair to be sacked, however that is apparently wide of the mark.
A club spokesman told The Athletic that a decision on the players’ futures will be taken as soon as possible.
The usually reliable The Athletic claimed if the pair were sacked, they would become the first British professional footballers to lose their jobs for breaching Covid rules.
A statement issued said: “Oxford United can confirm reports that two academy players are currently suspended while the club gathers all of the facts regarding an alleged breach of covid protocols.
“While the investigation is ongoing there will be no further comment from the club.”
Fans gave their reaction as Stoke suspend James McClean with immediate effect, see what they made of it below…
@Dave50525946: Bit of a blessing given his form of late in truth
@caulkers25: Absolute lunacy if true.
@DopeyJoe1704: I like Jimmy Mac. I’m surprised he’s put it in the public domain but think him training on his own to keep fit is what a lot of athletes do. When you see all the close player contact on the field, being suspended for this seems a little harsh to me.
@OWaltonSports: Disappointing, will be very interesting to see what happens now. Also a shame to see ‘fans’ coming out of the woodwork to voice hatred that is likely fuelled by various other factors.
@ForeverAYellow: How many more times is he going to get into trouble at the club. Time for the club to sack him. Can do better without him imo
@pocofcum: Boxing has been his number 1 priority a good 6 months now
@robboscfc: Sack him at least then we won’t have to suffer him being on the pitch any more
@louis11073: That’s harsh. Short memories. He was our player of the season last year and still puts more effort in than anyone else now. He’s just made a stupid mistake that he may have not even made, notice how pete used the word alleged
@ollie_long93: Oh dear
@joshbut92: Good, he’s fucking toss.
@JPreeceSCFC: Cheerio Macca
@samevans1506: Fair play to the club acting quickly. Not a single PL club has taken this stance when their players have been caught breaking rules etc, it’s been a generic apology and 2 weeks wages as punishment. Well done Stoke leading by example again
@BFinneron: Hes losing his own spot
@stokeharry_: fuck sake jimmy
@ScfcReece: Good he’s wank anyway
@SCFC_Dalgarno: So that means he isn’t playing Saturday then? Sound!
@NoMoreLaughs: Good. He’s fucking shite anyway. Always has been. Get rid, and make him someone else’s problem.
@RProud89: McClean really doesn’t help himself….
@GeorgeBanning_: Most pathetic football player I’ve ever seen
@rob_doolan: Maybe this is why we’ve signed three left-sided players in a week? Do not f**k with Michael O’Neill…
@JordLoudProud: JM: “looks like I’ll be getting dropped, best get suspended instead”
@JPhillips87: I do think he will be gone in this window if there is any takers. Wages will be an issue i feel #scfc
@jordan17582510: Oh please get rid of this scumbag I actually beg you @stokecity
@StokeMatt_: Fuck him off