But over the last six months his personal rating has gone through the roof, well almost, so how has he done it?
Here’s five reasons which might give a good insight into why James McClean is no longer a by- word for much that was wrong with Stoke City’s recruitment policy…
A player can’t do much about his relationship with supporters if he isn’t performing and McClean suffered along with the best of them for the best part of a year.
But under Michael O’Neill he has enjoyed a minor epiphany which has seen something like the best of him until his recent injury.
There was an evident trust between manager and player – a bond formed from the moment O’Neill restored McClean to left wing from left back in his very first game in charge
The transformation was such that in one home game earlier this year McClean completely mis-hit the ball in front of the Boothen End and second later was announced as man-of-the-match over the PA.
Cue groans or even boos once-upon-a-time, but not this time as the decision was warmly greeted.
His popularity has also been helped by his manager’s comments which have included: “There’s a softness and a variation to the quality of his cross which has surprised me a little bit, so he’s got a number of different options with how he delivers the ball.
“We all know about his running power, his work rate, his bravery… he’s not afraid to go and compete for the ball which, for a wide player, is often a little bit unsusual.”
The image of a generous guy, in terms of his heart and his pocket, is fast emerging.
Only in the last day, for instance, he told the Derry Journal: “We’ve made a donation towards nappies, medicines, toilet roll, baby supplies, cleaning products etc which will be made into hampers and given out at the ‘Corned Beef Tin’ (building in the Creggan area) over the next few days when the full stock is brought in.
“It’s a small gesture but one that I hope can go a long way in helping.”
The cynics will say he is courting publicity, but the fact it emerged during an interview suggests he wasn’t going out of his way to do so.
3) HIS POPPY-DAY STANCE
This is why he was so unpopular with so many Stoke fans before he had even put pen to paper to sign for the club in the summer of 2018.
But as time has gone on, and as his previous statements on the matter have been dug out, onlookers appear to understand his position more.
Given he is from a fiercely Republican area of Northern Ireland, he is bound to hold the views he does.
But on poppy day he is not turning his back on the sacrifice made by British soldiers in justifiable wars, more refusing to applaud those instances where Irish republicans lost their lives at the hands of British soldiers.
4) ANTI IRA/McCLEAN CHANTS FROM OPPOSITION FANS
These have been widespread for years and no doubt many Stoke fans have sung them in the past when McClean was playing against their club.
But we now live in a more politically correct climate and McClean finally made a stance earlier this season after years of taking such abuse on the chin.
Barnsley have been fined for what their fans were chanting back in early November, while at Huddersfield on New Year’s Day the referee stopped the game briefly after McClean complained about what home fans were singing.
And there’s nothing like opposition fans getting at one of your own players to encourage you to get behind that player.
5) HIS SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS
They haven’t all gone down well, it has to be said, but more recently they appear to have curried more favour.
Not least among popular team-mates, which always goes down well, like the tongue-in-cheek post claiming credit for Tyrese Campbell not joining Rangers in the January window.
To which Campbell replied that a “few words from uncle macca was all it took”.