He’s not even kicked a ball for them yet, but Stephen Ireland has revealed he would be interested in signing a permanent contract at Stoke City.
The 27-year-old was once regarded as one of the brightest prospects in the country whilst at Manchester City, where he flourished under the watch of Mark Hughes. However, Roberto Mancini offloaded him to Aston Villa as part of the deal which saw James Milner head to the Etihad Stadium, and the midfielder’s career has stalled ever since.
A loan spell at Newcastle United in 2011 saw him make just two Premier League appearances, and upon his return he made just 13 for the Midlands club last term. Ireland accepts that, with his contract set to expire in the summer, Paul Lambert’s decision to loan him out to Stoke for the duration of this campaign marks the end of his Villa days.
The former City ace, though, believes the move to the Britannia Stadium could be a pivotal moment in his career. Not only does the switch give him a reunion with Hughes, but he also feels that if he can recapture the form he showed whilst in Manchester, he could earn a permanent contract to remain with the Potters for the foreseeable future.
“If I do well at Stoke and they want me at the end of the loan spell – and as I will be out of contract – I think that, yes, my Villa career is effectively over,” the former Republic of Ireland man told Sky Sports. “My first impressions of the club have been fantastic. Everybody has been so welcoming and there seems to be a great buzz about the place.
“I just can’t wait to be a part of it and start playing again on a regular basis. I have got so much to prove to myself and the footballing world. I am hungrier than ever to prove the doubters wrong and prove Mark Hughes and Stoke right in their decision to sign me. I am hoping to recreate my best form and more for the faith they have shown in me.”
In one of those twists of fate that seem to happen on a regular basis in football, Ireland could make his debut for Stoke when former club City visit this weekend. Should the home side record a win against the 2012 champions, they will leapfrog them in the standings as both sides have won two of their three opening fixtures this term.