JAMES McCLEAN’S dream move to Celtic was blocked by Wigan in a dramatic late-night turn of events.
The Republic of Ireland international was involved in an intense day of talks in a three-club transfer tug-of-war.
Hull City and Derby County made their moves for the 25-year-old winger on Sunday before his boyhood idols joined the chase on the last day of the transfer deadline.
The Parkhead side, in the throes of signing Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven from Dundee United and Derry City’s Michael Duffy, showed their intent in also bringing in McClean.
An insider said: “That would have been a dream come true for James.
“The chance to join Celtic must have been overwhelming.”
However, Latics boss Malky Mackay, a former Hoops defender, refused to allow the player to quit the relegation-threatened Championship side.
He was adamant that in-form McClean would not be joining Shaun Maloney, Callum McManaman, Ben Watson and Adam Forshaw in exiting the DW Stadium.
McClean still has 18 months remaining on his contract, but the club may relent in the summer if they fail to beat the drop.
Ironically, it was former Parkhead gaffer Martin O’Neill who gave the exciting touchline flier his debut during his days at Sunderland.
The player was signed by ex-manager Steve Bruce from Derry City for £350,000 in August 2011.
But it was O’Neil, just a week into the job, who handed him his first team chance in December that year as a substitute in a 2-1 win at Blackburn Rovers.
He joined Wigan in August 2013 and has impressed Mackay since he took over as boss this season following the sacking of Uwe Rosler.
McClean has scored four goals in his 25 appearances for the Republic of Ireland where he has become a mainstay under O’Neill.