McClean: Balaclava photo 'supposed to be a light-hearted joke'

Stoke City winger James McClean has insisted that the photo he put up on Instagram which showed him teaching his children in a balaclava was "supposed to be a light-hearted joke".

On Thursday, March 26, McClean posted an image of himself in a ski-mask sitting on a box in front of his two children, with the caption: 'Today's school lesson - History'.

The 30-year-old was widely criticised for the social media stunt, which was interpreted as an ill-advised reference to the Irish Republican Army.

The Republic of Ireland international released an official statement apologising for the post, and also deleted his Instagram account after being fined two week's wages by Stoke.

“I never wanted to cause any offence but I now realise I did so and for that, I apologise unreservedly,” said McClean. “I have spoken to the club and will be deleting my Instagram account.”

The former West Brom and Sunderland ace has addressed the incident again during an interview with Sky Sports, expressing his belief that the public's reaction was over the top.

McClean said: "If I sat here and said I don't regret things I'd be lying but I can take a lot of abuse and can't have fun back?

"It was supposed to be a light-hearted joke but I can understand why it didn't go down well. People think I did a history lesson like that but I didn't actually do it."

The 2019-20 season is currently on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, with all players and staff from clubs across England currently self-isolating in accordance with new Government legislation.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock called on Premier League stars to "play their part" in the fight against Covid-19 by taking a pay cut during a daily update on the crisis which was televised on Friday.

Ex-Manchester United star Gary Neville and Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend have since voiced their outrage over Hancock's 'cheeky' comments, and McClean shares the same opinion as his colleagues. 

"It's ridiculous," he added. "You've got Matt Hancock saying we should take a pay cut. No one seems to like footballers. We've got livelihoods too and people might take this the wrong way but we do work hard for our money.

"Think about what players pay towards government tax. Football is a short career and we've got to look after our families once it's over. I've seen players do great deeds from their own pocket."