While we’ve all been isolating from the real world (unless you are one of that small minority of total idiots…), the internet has continued to provide mighty relief to us Stokies.
Classic matches and goals, polls about who your favourite player was and even cannibalised rounds from BBC2’s legendary quiz Only Connect made an appearance this week to keep us both sane and remembering the good old times when we all traipsed up the hill to watch Nathan Jones’s men get hammered yet again.
Oh, and the slightly better times when Michael O’Neill rocked up and saved us from certain obliteration.
It was enough (just) to keep you from completely losing it, donning a kilt and running round the back garden shouting “Nello won a BAFTA!”
But then on Thursday up popped a post on Instagram from crocked midfielder James McClean.
You might have thought it was lovely to hear from everyone’s favourite Rambo, after all we have missed him since his injury earlier in the year. But on this occasion McClean was not covering himself in glory. Far from it.
In fact, he was covering himself in a balaclava.
If you haven’t seen it, the image was a thinly-veiled (or quite thickly if you like) joke, making a point about the current need for home-schooling and the, erm, chequered paramilitary history of McClean’s home town of Derry. The Irishman had also engaged his young children in the photo, just to irk the ire of pretty much everyone online.
It ended up not being very pretty. In any sense. In fact, it was a very disturbing image in a lot of different ways.
Whatever your opinion of McClean’s post you have to think that it was completely unnecessary. There was just no need.
It brought the weight of the internet down upon him, not just annoyed Stokies, and, before the day was out, McClean had been fined two weeks’ wages and had deleted his Instagram account.
Given there is so much in the news, thankfully McClean’s indiscretion didn’t make particularly big headlines, but the really worrying thing is that it took less than a week of lockdown for him to decide to throw away all the good work he has done in the last year or so to put himself right up there in terms of Stoke fans’ affections.
What on earth possessed him?
It was bonkers, pointless, needless and gratuitous.
And it really wasn’t funny.
Now, we know McClean thrives on a ‘them and us’ mentality. And that’s great when it is channelled into doing serious damage to an opposition defence. That kind of thing has turned him into a real hero in the O’Neill-inspired comeback from the dead since November.
Especially in the Boxing Day comeback against Sheffield Wednesday when we single-handedly won that late, late corner, then, with only one leg to stand on, put the cross in for the goalmouth scramble which saw Sam Vokes poke home that late, late winner.
Mayhem ensued. In the right way.
I just don’t understand why he would choose to put that status at risk.
Maybe this whole lockdown is doing strange things to us all? Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt on this occasion. He has earned that much with his performances on the pitch in the last few months.
But for goodness sake, James, don’t be doing anything like that again, please. Not sure my cooped up nerves can take it.
Right, where’s that kilt…