Stoke City manager Gary Rowett has had his say on the James McClean poppy saga ahead of the Potters’ trip to Nottingham Forest this weekend.
McClean caused controversy with his refusal to wear a poppy in City’s home game against Middlesbrough last weekend.
The Republic of Ireland international reacted angrily on Instagram to fans who criticised his decision not to wear a poppy after City’s game against Middlesbrough, calling some fans “uneducated cavemen” on the social media site.
However, now Rowett has spoken out on the matter, saying that although he doesn’t condone the player’s actions, he can understand why he reacted as he did.
“I think firstly, with the reaction from the away fans, you know in that circumstance you’re going to get some sort of abuse,” said Rowett.
“I think it’s about containing yourself and not reacting at all because when you have those beliefs. You appreciate that there’ll be a big situation on the weekend like that.
“Firstly, I spoke to James about it, I think his reaction was out of frustration but criticising the minority of our fans isn’t the way to go and we can’t condone that.
“But when you understand the background to his beliefs and you see that his family have been sent death threats, his wife and kids have had abuse constantly and you see he’s been sent things in the post, you can understand why he reacts, he’s only human.”
He added: “The club have spoken to James about it and its certainly not something we want to condone.
“Earlier in the season, when we lost to Wigan, there was a majority who abused me, so you have to not react to that.
“I don’t want to get into the nature of it, but my belief is that everyone has a freedom of speech and everyone has the freedom to follow the path they want to follow. But you can’t react to the abuse and criticism if you follow that path, it’s as simple as that.
“James realises that, and it was a heat of the moment thing that he realises he shouldn’t have done.”
Saturday’s trip to Nottingham will be no easy fixture with Forest sitting pretty in a play-off spot but only five points ahead of the Potters.
The James McClean storm could have distracted many managers but Rowett has his thoughts fixed firmly on the game.
“It’s a big game for us this weekend, we’ve been in pretty good form in the last ten games in some ways and it’s about us focusing on picking the right team and getting a good performance and if James is part of that team we’re looking for him to perform as well.”