Former Republic of Ireland international Ray Houghton believes James McClean "is in a no-win situation" as the fallout continues from his annual decision not to wear to wear a poppy on his jersey.

McClean, along with Nemanja Matic, has taken the stance and explained his position, but is continually on the receiving end of criticism from football fans.

The Derry man was warned by the English FA for his use of an offensive word in an Instagram post at the weekend, in which he quoted Bobby Sands and referred to fans abusing him as "uneducated cavemen."

He accused the FA of turning "a blind eye" to repeated "sectarian abuse, death threats, objects being thrown... and chanting".

Houghton told RTÉ Sport: "In many respects he is in a no-win situation because every year around this time he has to come out and give his reasons once again why he doesn't want to the wear the poppy.

"There is obviously going to be fans unhappy with it. I saw the reaction of fans at the game at the weekend where they were screaming and shouting at him. It's not nice to see. It's not right.

"James believes he is doing the right thing and you have to stand by what you think is right.

"I have to be honest. This is an old story. This has been going on for seven years. When the story first broke, James handled it very well. He gave a detailed assessment of why he didn't want to wear the poppy.

"I think everyone understood it at the time. I thought that was going to be the end of it. I don't see why you have to force people to do something they don't want to do.

"I think James has stood his ground. He is unhappy with the reaction of the fans and the FA and I can see why."

Martin O'Neill refused to delve into the subject at his press conference today.

He said: "I'm here to discuss the squad and James, James always becomes the focus of attention around this particular month. I shouldn't have been surprised at all. I'm not eager to comment on that."

"James is entitled to do what he wants. It’s entirely his choice and I think that choice should be respected."

McClean is back in action for Stoke away to Nottingham Forest on Saturday.