Kevin Kilbane made a long-overdue appearance on the Football Show on Off The Ball where he spoke about abuse he experienced and wearing the poppy.
Kilbane regrets his own decision to not question wearing the symbol more.
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) March 3, 2021
"I look back with a bit of regret myself," he said, "and maybe some other Irish players from the time would be the same.
"It would have been a standalone thing with James McClean and I was playing Premier League football at the time as well.
"It is easy to say now, but I am sure there would have been a lot more players would have spoken about it and said 'look, we've got to stand with him here on this one.'
"This is more than just James being on his own coming out saying he will not wear a poppy. There are a lot of Irish players over the years that would have spoken about that.
"They would not have done it if they had actually been given the choice, rather than just turn up for the game on a Saturday or whatever day and just expected to wear the shirt."
Abuse from McClean's own supporters
Kilbane remembers the almost cyclical nature of the poppy-related abuse directed to McClean.
"At the time, it was something that seemed to rear its ugly head in the week leading up to Remembrance Day," the former Irish international recalled.
"It was something that came up and 'here we go again, James is going to get it.'
"I don't think, until the last couple of years, the extent of the abuse that he was getting consistently across the year. Not just off the back of Remembrance Day but every game.
"I remember I went in 2013 or 2014, James was playing at Wigan and I was covering the game.
"James was getting abuse from his own supporters. I just thought to myself 'Jesus Christ..'
"It wasn't great to see and it wasn't how he was playing. the negativity had set in during the warm-up prior to the game and then that was building throughout the game.
"No matter what anyone says, James has always come out in defiance over the years. It has been something that spurred him on."
The sectarian abuse directed at James McClean has migrated online almost exclusively, with no fans at games.
Kilbane has experience of sectarian abuse showing the problem is not a new one.
"It has always been there," Kilbane said. "I remember I was playing, years ago, at Wycombe.
"It was at the time where they started to put a flag beside a player's name, I could have been at Preston.
"I remember playing and I was in a wider area close to the supporters. This shout came from one of them, 'you Fenian.. whatever.'
"I looked around and thought 'how does this guy even know me?' I was only about 18 or 19 at the time.
"He had obviously seen the flag in the programme next to my name, I was playing under-21 football at the time.
"It was a lot more vocal back then, if a player was going to get abused, it was if he was out for a drink with the lads.
"It has changed, there is a subtle element to it now, but it is a lot more severe and more personal.
"It was there 30 years ago, but now it's different. Now it is getting straight to James and the level he is experiencing is far worse than anything I ever had."
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