Stoke say they 'respect' James McClean's decision not to wear a poppy
STOKE City FC have said they "respect" the right of Derry-born footballer James McClean not to wear a poppy on his shirt during the team's next two games.
McClean, a winger for the Premer League club, said he will not wear a Remembrance Day poppy for upcoming games against Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest.
The 29-year-old has in previous years refused to wear a poppy citing the legacy of the British army in his home city, including events on Bloody Sunday.
In 1972, 13 people were shot dead by members of the British Army Parachute Regiment who opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in Derry. A fourteenth person injured on the day died later.
The Republic of Ireland international, who joined Stoke in the summer, refused to wear a poppy at previous clubs Sunderland, Wigan and West Bromwich Albion.
In a statement issued yesterday McClean said: "I know many people won't agree with my decision or even attempt to gain an understanding of why I don't wear a poppy.
"I accept that but I would ask people to be respectful of the choice I have made, just as I'm respectful of people who do choose to wear a poppy."
Stoke host Middlesbrough in the Sky Bet Championship on Saturday and travel to Nottingham Forest the following weekend.
The statement by the club said it "recognised" the decision taken by McClean but added that all other players would be wearing poppies on their shirts at both fixtures.
The club said: "We recognise that the poppy means different things to different individuals and communities and (like the Royal British Legion) do not believe that anybody should be forced or even pressured to wear the poppy against their free will.
"James has informed us that he will not be wearing a Remembrance Day poppy in our next two games. We respect his decision and his right to follow his own convictions."
The Stoke City fanzine also released a statement urging fans to respect the player's decision saying: "You don't have to agree with his stance, but you should try and understand it".
RAF veteran and author Harry Leslie Smith tweeted support for the Derry man last night saying; "I stand in solidarity with #jamesmcclean and his right not to wear a poppy".