James McClean linked to Celtic

Stoke boss O'Neill denies 'highly unlikely rumour'

James McClean

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Stoke City boss Michael O'Neill has denied reports that Ireland star James McClean is on his way to Celtic.

But the former Northern Ireland manager has not ruled out an exit for Derry native McClean before the transfer window closes next month.

McClean has not even made the bench for Stoke's two league games this season, though he did make two appearances in the League Cup and is expected to feature in tonight's Cup tie at home to Gillingham. The non-selection of McClean, voted as City's player of the year last season by Stoke fans, had sparked rumours that he could join his fellow Derry native Shane Duffy in moving to Parkhead but O'Neill has ruled that out - for now.

"I think that's probably just a rumour that's been created by someone - and it certainly hasn't come from our end.

"James isn't a player, equally, that we are looking to lose at this minute in time," O'Neill said. "The nature of the transfer window is such that you have to be flexible and if any situation arises with any player you have to give it consideration, particularly where we are at this minute in time.

"James is no different from any other player in the squad and if the situation arose we'd have to consider it but at this minute in time, I think that would be highly unlikely."

McClean has previously spoken of his wish to play for the Bhoys. "If the opportunity comes it would be a very difficult one to turn down. I've never hidden that," he said in 2018. "For one reason or another over the last few years it hasn't happened - but it hasn't been for the want of trying.

Meanwhile, Robbie Brady is set to miss Ireland's international games next month, including the Euro 2020 playoff against Slovakia, after manager Sean Dyche confirmed that the Dubliner had suffered a cracked rib in Sunday's defeat to Leicester.

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