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O'Neill firmly behind McClean

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has given his backing to winger James McClean after it emerged a friend of the player will be moving to Wearside to help him overcome homesickness.

• Blog: When beautiful gets ugly

McClean, 23, has endured a difficult second season in the Premier League, with O'Neill proliferating the suggestion that the Irishman simply needs time to adjust, now he is being afforded less space by defenders.

"Against Manchester City, (Pablo) Zabaleta was straight in on top of him, right in and that's happened the first three or four times he's picked it (the ball) up. It's a case of trying to find a bit of room for himself," O'Neill said.

"All good wingers do suss it, to create space and see if there's anything over the top. He's had no apprenticeship at all and it takes a bit of time.

"If you are being heavily marked, then you have to realise there should be space for someone else. Utilising that space when you don't have the ball is very valuable. Of course he's still going to be judged by what he does on the ball."

O'Neill added: "Did I think these things would happen to him? Of course, every one of us thought: 'let's see what James does in his second season' and it's interesting.

"Do I think he's got the capability to get over that? Absolutely.

"Teams and individual full-backs are paying him a lot more attention and that's a natural thinking. Someone picks the ball up and goes past you one season you're going to make sure next time around that you deal with it. It's how James deals with that."

The Black Cats boss also pledged his support to the news that Eugene Ferry - a former team-mate of McClean's at Derry City - will be moving into the house he currently shares with his girlfriend.

"I've not got a problem with that and it's not a big issue, he's not five years of age, although I've said to you he's 23 going on it!" O'Neill said.

"I just think he's been a little bit homesick, that's my thought. James might not go with that. Lots of things have happened to him and my annoyance with him was purely on the tweeting aspect more than anything else, especially some of the choice language and picking Trapattoni's team for him.

"There's a difference to telling James to be a bit sensible, but I don't think he's gone off the rails or anything. My concern is him playing well for us. If there's something off the field, then on a serious note I have to look at that.

"If he's happy with someone living with him, then fine."

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