The Cobh native clearly isn’t Roberto Mancini’s cappuccino and presuming the Italian will still be in charge of team affairs next season (which appeared moot after they lost out on the fourth Champions League spot to Spurs) he reckons it could be time to move on.
Some of the clubs the 24-year-old’s agent has been linking him with are fanciful. If not as spurious as some of eight-goal Kevin Doyle’s supposed suitors.
Given that he recently spent £5 million doing up his mansion, the man with the most ironic surname in soccer might well fancy a switch across Manchester. While Ireland is evidently talented, he’s also limited in terms of what a modern-day midfielder should be able to bring to the party. He can’t head nor tackle, and his temperament is, shall we say, suspect.
After Mancini replaced the sacked Mark Hughes, Ireland perfidiously claimed the Welshman hadn’t made the most of his talents, and had been playing him out of position. Most observers would have thought the opposite, that if anything the faith Hughes had shown in ‘Stevie I’ had resulted in performances few thought he was capable of.
If he was trying to curry favour with the new incumbent it didn’t work, with the ex-Inter Milan coach deciding the Corkman’s best position was on the bench. And on the rare occasions he did give him a chance, the midfielder was a shadow of the playmaking, goalscoring force he’d been under ‘Sparky’.
Why? Well, for what it’s worth, here’s my theory. Ireland made a big play of the fact he did extra training last summer and during those now-idle international breaks, putting huge store in kickboxing, and boasting that he was doing all this to be the main man at City. He even went so far as to say that he wanted to be just like Roy Keane in terms of his influence and importance to the club.
“I want to put my body on the line and that’s why I do this extra training. I want to be the one who’s always on the team sheet first. I never want to be left out and I want to play every minute that I can,” he said last August.
However, the few times I’ve seen him on the field since he’s looked bulked up way beyond the lithe figure of previous seasons. Trying to do too much could well have cost him in the long run.
Mancini insists he’s “a fantastic player” who still has a future at Eastlands – “if he can change his head”. Which is about as big an if as there is.