Can Mark Hughes salvage former Manchester City star’s career?

Stephen Ireland

Stephen Ireland completed a loan move from Aston Villa to Stoke on transfer deadline day to be reunited with his former City boss.

One player in real need of a transfer deadline day move was Stephen Ireland, and the Aston Villa midfielder will sigh in relief as he now steps out for Stoke City this term after completing a loan deal.

The Republic of Ireland international has spoken of his delight to be moving to the Britannia Stadium and is looking forward to getting his career back on track.

“I knew the writing was on the wall at Villa back in March and they made the decision before last season had even finished,” he said.

“They had two squads, one they wanted to keep and one they didn’t, and I was in the second group. I never called it the Bomb Squad, although a couple of the others, like Darren Bent, took it to heart more than I did.

“It was more about self-pride for me. Players were coming up to me saying think of all the days off, you must love it, all the booze and parties.

"But I’m not like that, I’m a family person and I just had to keep myself in good nick. A lot of the players couldn’t believe I wasn’t playing.

“It’s been a difficult few months but now I’ve never been so determined to prove a point. There are quite a few people I want to stick two fingers up at.”

Ireland only made nine starts for an underperforming Villa last season, confirming the fact that his career has taken a dip since the heady days of Manchester City.

The talented playmaker was at City when the money men’s influence started to become apparent and was a key figure in Hughes’ tenure at the wealthy club. Ireland was arguably City’s best-performing player in the 2008-09 season, and a bright future seemed assured.

With additional recruitment of international stars, Ireland’s opportunities to play started to wane, and he made the move to Villa to the 2010-11 campaign. He has however struggled to find that form that made him a star at City and even spent time out on loan at Newcastle.

Ireland is obviously not in Paul Lambert’s plans for the future, but this could be a great piece of business from Mark Hughes. Stoke have traditionally been a route one side, guilty of lumping it forward to Peter Crouch under Tony Pulis, but the Welsh trainer is looking to incorporate some more technically gifted players in his early days with the Potters.

A good start of two wins from three games has silenced the doomsayers who predicted that Stoke would fall apart after Pulis’ deparute, and it is an exciting time to be a Potters fan at the moment.

If Hughes can get the best from Ireland, like he did at City, the midfielder will be a decisive player for the club and it will aid Stoke’s progression into a more-rounded footballing team.

For Ireland, still only 27, the move to the Britannia is the chance to show that he still has the ability to be a Premier League player.

image: © alfonso jimenez

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