Manchester City fans, we’d like you to think back to 2005. A time when Stephen Ireland touched down in Manchester. Indeed, in the latest instalment of our Look at him now feature, we’ll be telling the story of the midfielder.
Times were simpler then. There were no real expectations (other than survival), the players weren’t global superstars, flipping Stuart Pearce ruled the roost, and the petrodollars of Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan had not yet taken hold.
Players like Joey Barton, Claudio Reyna, Darius Vassell, Andrew snake Cole, Richard Dunne and Danny Mills made Eastlands their home.
…and of course our man in question, Stephen Ireland.
David Silva is a great player, right? Well, he was no Stephen Ireland, we’ll tell you that much for nothing.
Have you ever heard the, ‘whatever Silva can do Ireland can do better’ chant? Of course you haven’t, it doesn’t exist. And it’s not true either, so put away your pitchforks and count to ten.
But that isn’t to say that Ireland didn’t have his qualities.
Indeed, the Cobh-born midfielder was just about the only bright spark the Blues had ‘back in the day’ before everything just went a bit money mad, he really was.
Small, agile, cheeky on the ball and inventive in his play – you would think we’re describing one of many of City’s current stars but we’re not.
Following his national team exile, Ireland enjoyed one of his best seasons to date (we’d argue his best given how things have turned out) scoring nine times in 35 Premier League appearances. He was the club’s talisman. He was the man to make things happen; to bring the opposition to their knees and evoke fear among fans.
Sadly though, his legacy as a player has come crashing down in recent years.
Following the arrival of Roberto Mancini, Ireland was deemed surplus to requirements at new-look Manchester City and eventually left the club to join Aston Villa in exchange for James Milner in 2010.
It went from bad to worse from hereon. Ireland’s passion for the game had clearly failed him when he was ripped from the bosom of his dearly beloved City, and he soon fell out of favour at Villa Park.
As then managed Gerard Houllier said: “Ireland needs to work harder. He played against Chelsea and did well, he played against Sunderland and was not good enough to me – simple as that.”
And failed spells at Newcastle and Stoke City, where he suffered an absolutely horrendous leg break in training, soon followed to compile his misery.
After spending months without a club he joined the embattled Bolton Wanderers in October 2018 but was released no less than two months later, presumably due to financial demands, or lack of effort. Both reasons are as likely as the other.
At 32-years-old, he remains a free agent.
Manchester City fans, what are your standout memories of Stephen Ireland? Let us know in the comments below…