He might've had a lot of work to do when he was younger but he did that work and he improved so much that, by the time Stephen Kenny picked him up for Derry City, it wasn't the rawness or the fire he was attracted to. It was the tricky winger and what he could do on the ball.
So, inevitably, when the Dundalk manager is asked about hard tackles back in McClean's Derry days, he saw it very differently. He just saw the useful player who was still being overlooked elsewhere - but, of course, he would overcome that.
"He was just a skillful left winger who could take people on. He had pace - he got up and down the left, initially," Kenny told SportsJOE.
"There were players from his school team and players from his class who were picked for Northern Ireland Schoolboys - and some of his friends - and James wasn't picked at that stage.
"But, to me, on the evidence that I could see, he was infinitely more talented. I thought he was quite exciting when I saw him."
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