Former Stoke City defender Danny Higginbotham has told The Sentinel that he is looking for Stephen Ireland to step out of the shadows.
A talented performer has seen game time limited this season as the Potters have favoured other creative options.
Bojan Krkic has been the man blocking his path, with the Spaniard drafted in to fill the playmaker post.
He has revelled in that role, with the 24-year-old displaying the kind of form which has allowed him to represent Barcelona, Ajax and AC Milan in the past.
Unfortunately for Stoke, Bojan has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with cruciate ligament damage.
Higginbotham acknowledges that he will be a big miss, but has called on former Manchester City and Aston Villa midfielder Ireland to step up to the plate and prove his worth.
He said in The Sentinel: “I suppose losing Bojan after his cruciate knee ligament injury is a bit like having your star player suddenly sold. The Stoke lads will be gutted for him as friends and team-mates, but they won’t lose any sleep.
“That sounds heartless, but I didn’t expect anyone to lose sleep over me after I did my cruciate because they have to get on with their games, beginning against QPR tomorrow.
“There will be pressure on Stoke to see how they cope without Bojan and this must be a great chance for a player like Stephen Ireland. He strikes me as a confidence player, but his confidence must be good after recent FA Cup performances and he knows he has his manager’s confidence, which is huge for that kind of player.”
What does Bojan blow mean for Stoke?
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The diminutive forward has been Mark Hughes’ go-to man in the final third this season.
His absence will be felt, but Higginbotham is right to suggest that Stoke have alternative options.
Ireland is a man still searching for the form he showed during his early years at City, but he is a match-winner on his day.
Were Hughes to tell him that he is guaranteed a prolonged run in the side, that may be enough to light a fire under him.
It is never easy for players when they are thrown in and aware of the need to impress immediately to secure a place in the side, but playing with the freedom to express himself should suit the Republic of Ireland international.