Sunderland midfielder Meyler defends McClean's poppy decision

The Black Cats midfielder has come out in defence of his team-mate's decision not to wear a shirt featuring the design and says the whole situation has been blown out of proportion
Sunderland midfielder David Meyler has defended team-mate James McClean's decision not to wear a poppy on his jersey for last Saturday’s game against Everton in the Premier League.

The Derry-born winger caused some controversy by not donning the same style shirt, embroidered with the poppy symbol to mark Remembrance Sunday, as the rest of the Black Cats team but Meyler says the incident has been blown out of proportion.

"James is James," Meyler told reporters. "James is his own man, I respect his decision. Obviously, his friends and family were involved in Bloody Sunday so it's understandable.

"A lot of people have blown it up a bit too much. It's not that big of a deal for him. It's a family decision, it's his call and I respect his decision. He's a close pal of mine.

"I think people in England have jumped on the bandwagon a bit too easily and come out and nailed him and hammered him a bit and it's a bit unfair.

"James showed that if you don't want to wear it you don't have to wear it. That was James' decision.

"A lot of other players probably chose to wear them. That's just the way it is and the club don't force you to really do anything."

The 23-year-old, currently on loan to championship side Hull City, was in Dublin ahead of the Republic of Ireland's friendly against Greece on Wednesday night.

The former Cork City man made his international debut against Oman in a friendly in September and made a late appearance in the World Cup qualifier win against the Faroe Islands in October.

Despite the return to fitness of Ireland regular Glenn Whelan and manager Giovanni Trapattoni's recent praise for Wigan midfielder James McCarthy, Meyler is hopeful that he can get his third cap against Greece.

"The way I look at it, it's down to myself in training. I've got work as hard as I can and I've got to impress the manager and that’s what I intend to do," Meyler added.

"These games come around every couple of months and it's an opportunity to play for Ireland. You've got to seize the moment and take the opportunity as it comes."

8/5 Republic of Ireland are 8/5 with bet365 to beat Greece on Wednesday
Meyler's early career was blighted by two serious knee injuries and he admits to being about "85-90%" fit at the moment.

But he feels those worries are behind him as he bids to get earn a place in Trapattoni's plans for the rest of the Group C qualification campaign.

The Boys in Green lie in third place on six points after three games, behind Germany on 10 points after four games and Sweden on seven points after three.

Asked what he brings to the team, he said: "A lot of people talk about my physicality and the size of me. I'm 6'3" and that's something I need to probably use.

"I describe myself as a box-to-box midfielder, likes to get on the ball, pass it around, win the ball back, do the dirty stuff, do the doggy work, bring a bit of tackling and that's exactly what I intend to do over the next couple of days: work hard in training and show the manager that I'm able to fit the mould in the Ireland team."