Martin O'Neill, the Sunderland manager, yesterday warned James McClean that life in the Premier League was only going to get more difficult – after handing him a new, improved contract.
The 22-year-old winger, who joined from Derry City for £350,000 last summer, has had a three-year deal replaced by another to run to the summer of 2015. McClean's form was last month rewarded with a first Republic of Ireland cap.
O'Neill said: "It's not going to be all plain sailing for him now, just because he has been given a new contract. Now he will come up against top-quality full backs, he will come up against people who are doubling up on him, and he has to find ways to cope with those things and to be able to overcome them. That's something he will have to learn.
"It's been a meteoric rise for him. He has deserved the contract we have given him and it's important for him now to keep progressing."