James McClean didn’t agree with Harry Arter’s Ireland absence
Winger says Arter has been welcomed back to squad but he would never do that himself
Harry Arter and James McClean during Ireland training ahead of the Nations League games against Denmark and Wales. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho
James McClean has insisted someone would “have to put a gun to my head” to stop him turning out for the Republic of Ireland after Harry Arter was welcomed back into the squad.
Arter on Tuesday rejoined his international colleagues for the first time since making himself unavailable for last month’s games against Wales and Poland after a summer bust-up with assistant manager Roy Keane.
McClean welcomed the Bournemouth player, currently on loan at Cardiff, back into the fold, but having earlier voiced his opinion over Arter’s decision to stay away, the Stoke midfielder admitted it would take more than a row to keep him away.
He said: “I’d tell Harry myself that I don’t agree with that. You’d have to put a gun to my head for me to not show up and play for Ireland.
“But obviously everyone is different, and he’s here now. He’s a team-mate. He’s here to play for Ireland. He’s got my backing, 100 per cent.
“I’m pleased to see him back. He’s a good lad, he’s a good player and at the minute, we need all the good players we can get.”
Audio of Stephen Ward’s version of Arter’s exchange with Keane and another between Martin O’Neill’s number two and Jonathan Walters prompted suggestions of damaged morale within the camp last month.
However, McClean was quick to deny the charge.
He said: “Two men having a row — that’s unheard of. So what? Someone had a go at someone.
“We’re all grown men at the end of the day. You just get on with it. The morale in the squad is good. It’s always been good.”
Arter was included in the squad for the Nations League clashes with Denmark and Wales after he and Keane had talked over their differences, and O’Neill is confident there will be no lasting scars for the player.
The manager said: “I probably believe that it should make Harry stronger for it all.
“If there’s criticism coming your way, take it in some sort of spirit and attempt to prove someone wrong if the criticism is levelled at you, and if someone is praising you, then try to prove them right.
“In this case, I think Harry wants to do that — I think he wants to do it not just here, but also that Bournemouth were wrong to let him leave or certainly go out this year on loan, so he’s got a bit to prove, which is great.
“I think players should always have something to prove, as we should as managers as well.”
The Republic certainly have something to prove after last month’s 4-1 defeat in Cardiff, and McClean was withering when asked about Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp’s dismissal of the Nations League as “the most senseless competition in the world”.
He said: “We’re here to play for our country. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a friendly, a Uefa Nations League (game) or a qualifier. It means something. It means everything — well, to me anyway.
“I couldn’t care less what Jurgen Klopp says, to be honest. I’m here to represent Ireland and that means everything.”