Eugene Ferry at the Brandywell yesterday. Credit: INPHO/Donall Farmer
SUNDERLAND ARE SET to hire a former team-mate and close friend of James McClean in order to keep him out of trouble.
The 23-year-old winger left his hometown club for the Black Cats 14 months ago in a deal worth €430,000 and has since become a regular fixture under Martin O’Neill.
He burst onto the scene last December and went on to score six goals — adding three more this term.
McClean, who switched allegiance to the Republic having played several times for Northern Ireland’s U21s, made his senior debut in February and also featured as a late substitute against Spain at Euro 2012.
Despite his meteoric rise, the Mackems are believed to be concerned about the player, who flies back to Derry regularly due to homesickness.
McClean has also brought negative attention to himself with a couple of outspoken tweets over the past year.
In a bid to tackle the problem, they have invited Candystripes second-choice goalkeeper Eugene Ferry to make the switch to the north-east of England and move in with his mate.
Ferry has been close with McClean’s for a number of years and looks likely to link up with his former team-mate after meeting with Sunderland representatives earlier this week.
The role will not involve a playing contract, but as well as being a “minder” of sorts for McClean, college graduate Ferry will work at the club, although the job has not yet been specified.
I was over with him (McClean) recently and his agents called around,” Ferry told TheScore last night. “They asked me would I come over to Sunderland and try and settle him down. Then yesterday (Tuesday), I met a player liaison officer, who is going to help me to earn a few bob.”
All going according to plan, he will relocate within the next three weeks with his girlfriend possibly following suit. And Derry boss Declan Devine has given the player his blessing.
“That’s the sort of person he (Devine) is. He said I’ll wish you all the best and told me life is short so I should take the opportunity.”
Ferry added that while he has been frustrated at finding himself behind Ger Doherty, he believes the Derry No.1 is the best goalkeeper in the country and is looking forward to the FAI Cup final – although he will be watching from the bench.
James McClean in the green of Ireland. INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Meanwhile, Derry are confident of selling the 6,600 tickets they have been allocated for the meeting with St Patrick’s Athletic next Sunday (November 4).
“We’d like to think so,” said vice president Sean Barrett. “We’ve already filled 80 buses, which is 4,000, plus those who will drive to Dublin so we are quite confident.
“There has been a great buzz around the club the past few weeks.”