Stephen Ireland is one of football’s most quotable stars. He’s had more than his fair share of stick in the press, following ‘Grannygate’ when he lied about the death of his grandmother to pull out of an international match for Ireland. In fairness to the midfielder, he had just received some equally devastating news, but the fact remains that his reputation was damaged and he has yet to play again for his country.
But Ireland seems to have a permanent case of ‘foot in mouth’ syndrome. Currently on loan at Newcastle, injury has prevented Ireland from making his mark for the Magpies so far this season. Call it frustration at not being able to play, but he has unleashed a rant at Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier that will do him no favours when he returns to Villa Park.
Following his £8 million move to Aston Villa from Manchester City, Ireland has made just 6 starts and directly blames Houllier for ‘wasting his time’ at Villa. Ireland told French football magazine So Foot that he had expected to appear under Martin O’Neill but found himself playing under Houllier upon his arrival. He believes that this affected his chances at Villa.
‘Just like at City I found myself in a squad where the coach hadn’t chosen me. After 15 matches on the bench Houllier told me to stay home.’
Ah, home…where everybody knows his name! That appears to have been another problem for Ireland, who had to commute every day from Manchester to Birmingham. He refused to move to the city, claiming ‘Birmingham is a rubbish town as it is, but on top of that I wasn’t playing so I wasn’t going to make that effort.’
I’ve never been to Birmingham, but I’ve done a little digging and found that it’s not as rubbish as Ireland seems to think! Here’s 5 examples of the kind of attractions Birmingham has to offer…
Aston Manor Transport Museum– Round the corner from Villa’s ground (so he wouldn’t even have to drive!) the Museum has ‘a wide range of commercial vehicles on show’. And it’s only a £1 to get in!
Barber Institute of Fine Art – Part of Birmingham University, one of the best in the country, this art gallery contains work by (amongst others) Monet, Manet, Magritte, Renoir, Rubens, Rodin, Botticelli, Turner, Gainsborough, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Picasso.
Birmingham Nature Centre – 134 species of British and European wildlife including otters, foxes, deer, owls, sheep, goats, wallabies, beavers, porcupines and lynx. Free entry to kids. Come on Stephen, one of these must appeal to you!
The Bull Ring – The world-famous shopping centre is literally 26 football pitches worth of shops, boutiques and restaurants.
Cadbury World – This place churns out 66,0000 cream eggs a day and 1680 Wispas A MINUTE!! An onsite museum tells the story of chocolate and the Cadbury family.
So you see, Birmingham isn’t that bad a place at all!
Ireland also launched an attack on Roberto Mancini and Manchester City in general, saying ‘Mancini never liked me…he’s got rid of everyone – even the cook left!’ Ireland believes that Man City has ‘lost it’s soul. The investors are playing a dangerous game, what with spending crazy amounts on average players.’
Ireland is still a decent player. At 24, he never stops running and scores goals from midfield. He’s in the Joey Barton/Kevin Nolan mould of midfielder and Newcastle fans will be looking forward to his return. I know I am! But the way Ireland sees it. When he returns to league action, he reckons there’ll only be 10 games left to make his mark in. He told the French magazine, ‘right now, I have no idea which team I will be playing in next season.’
It’s been a frustrating few months for the Irishman. Outbursts like this don’t help his cause though, and perhaps he should keep his head down and concentrate on getting fit. If Houllier does take him back though, at least now he knows Birmingham isn’t as bad as he thinks!!
Follow Peter Turner on Twitter @petermagpie
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