The 24-year-old Republic of Ireland international took a pay cut to move from Premier League side Sunderland to relegated Wigan, making his debut in Sunday's Community Shield defeat by Manchester United.
The winger looked to have dropped down the pecking order at the Stadium of Light following Paolo Di Canio's acquisitions of Emanuele Giaccherini and David Moberg Karlsson during the summer.
With the World Cup less than a year off, McClean decided he needed to act and ensure he played first-team football on a regular basis, eventually settling on a move to the Latics.
Following Sunday's Wembley encounter with the Premier League champions, McClean has linked up with the Republic squad preparing for Wednesday's friendly against Wales in Cardiff, and is competing with Jon Walters and Robbie Brady for a starting spot.
And the former Derry City man has no doubt he will remain part of Giovanni Trapattoni's plans following his move to the DW Stadium.
He said: "I don't see it as a step down, it might be in terms of leagues but it is still a very hard competition.
"I see it as two steps forward. It was about moving my career on and there is a good squad there.
"Hopefully at the first time of asking we can go back in the Premier League and I'm sure we will.
"It was great to get some game time under my belt after a pre-season without much game time but it's now that you want to be hitting your stride and hopefully I can build from here.
"I want to play as much as I can."
While McClean has been an established part of the Republic set-up since Euro 2012, Yeovil's Paddy Madden is taking his first steps in international football.
The uncapped Glovers forward, who top scored in League One to help the club reach the Sky Bet Championship, has been called up after Trapattoni was hit by a spate of injuries to attacking players.
The 23-year-old said: "It's an amazing feeling. It is something you dream about and I am here now and want to enjoy it.
"I feel comfortable here, the lads have been great to me.
"I can see the standard of the players here, that extra bit of quality you need to play at the highest level.
"I am just happy to be here and it would be fantastic if I get a run-out on Wednesday."