JAMES McCLEAN'S decision not to wear a Sunderland shirt bearing a commemorative poppy on the eve of Remembrance Sunday was entirely his own, his club have said.
Winger McClean, 23, opted not to wear a specially-made shirt with the emblem for Sunderland's 2-1 defeat at Everton, which drew a furious reaction from fans on Twitter over the weekend.
And the club, who have taken the lead in commemorative shirts over the years, said: "As a club, SAFC wholeheartedly supports the Remembrance commemorations.
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"It was James' personal choice not to wear a shirt on this occasion."
Derry-born McClean, who opted to play for the Republic of Ireland last year, was brought up on the Creggan estate of the city, which lost six of its number in the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972.
But Sunderland fans were not happy with any defence of a poppy boycott, with one fan tweeting: "Like the rest of us, Mr McClean is fortunate that others ensured that he has the ability to express his views without concern."
Another said: "Nothing short of a disgrace. He's happy to pick his pay packet up here, he should respect our dead."
However, one commentator said: "He'd be pilloried at home if he wore it. Is that freedom?"
Manager Martin O'Neill, himself a native of Derry, wore a poppy in post-match interviews.
A Premier League spokesperson said: "We have great support from the clubs. It is a matter of choice whether people wore the poppy."
n John O'Shea, who captained Sunderland on Saturday, wore a poppy for the first half at Goodison Park, but changed at half-time into a standard shirt.