Writer: Johnny Baguette
Date:Saturday August 21 2010
If there was ever any doubt over Stephen Ireland's classless, crass self obssession then his stunning attack on MCFC this weekend blows that doubt out of the water...
Ireland's audacity beggar's belief.
Not even Manchester City's Youth players escape criticism in one of, if not the most bitter, unprofessional tirades we have ever seen from a departing player.
The list of Ireland's accusations is lengthy. That list can be mirrored by the repeated support the club and particularly it's supporters have given him throughout dark, inexplicable times.
The former MCFC Academy graduate who was given his big chance in football by Manchester City has no words for the staff who helped develop him to the point where everything was in place for him to become an established Eire international. Yet for reasons best known to himself, he threw in the towel for The Republic very publicly in the type of self obsessed interview that blighted his career at the club.
Rarely if ever did the erstwhile 'Superman' ever talk about his club or the team's ambitions.
As he increasingly lost the plot last season, these interviews became increasingly bizarre.
Proving himself to be utterly out of touch with what is going on around him, during an ankle injury that persisted through the second half of the season, he paraded hacks through his home, showing off his lavish possessions which included an enormous fish tank.
Yet, Ireland had this to say for the current exciting crop of MCFC Academy players:
(At Aston Villa, based on 2 days experience) '...the young lads are so polite. At City they are not like that. They come in with £10,000 watches on their wrist and walking around as if they have made 200 Premier League appearances.'
As Ireland himself will testify and City midfield legend and VMC favourite Gary Owen recently confirmed here, the days when young players cleaned the pro's boots have long gone. Ireland himself would have no concept of that as his media poses in hideous pink wheeled Range Rover showed on exiting training seasons before he became a City first team regular.
Training. Nobody at City will deny that Ireland had done a job in transforming his fitness through a solo regime in the hills above town. Yet his claim that '...all the players know I was the first player into training and the last to leave.' is false. This correspondent and others have seen him arrive at the same time as other players and certainly not always the first.
And of City's senior players, Ireland has declared himself ahead of training monsters like Nigel De Jong and Vincent Kompany, let alone the rest of the squad:
...'I worked the hardest. With all the heart-rate monitors and tests, I was always number one, far ahead of everyone. You see the performance in training and I was practically always the best player in training. If Mancini's standing there watching that, I don't know how he doesn't see that.'
Mancio is reknowned in Italy as a hardliner who does not have any favourites. Any 'in the know' Italian will tell you that. But for Ireland, that's not good enough as he dismisses the seasoned professional's credentials:
'Mancini doesn't really build relationships withplayers. He brought in Patrick Vieira and when I spoke to him about his relationship he said he doesn't really have one - and he's worked for him for seven or eight years.'
Note the 'worked for him' quote from this one club player. You won't find Ireland talking about where a squad and management team are heading together. Quite what Villa boss Kevin MacDonald is supposed to make of all this having lost James Milner is anybody's guess.
Nobody escapes Ireland's wrath. He even finds time in his diatribe for a dig at City's reknowned City In The Community family orientated focus which since Khaldoon Al Mubarak became Chairman has seen the players sent out to meet the fans at meetings and social events the way it used to be done in the club's 70's heyday. Villa, by contrast, have eclipsed that for Ireland based upon 2 days experience:
'I've really landed on my feet here. I think it's a family club and one that will get the best out of me. I am actually shocked at how good it is. I've settled in so well, so fast.'
Clearly that soundbite was meant to inspire the Villa faithful, but surely a number of them this morning must be wondering what on earth have we signed here?
Stephen Ireland is a talk the talk legend in his own interview time. He's portrayed himself to Aston Villa as a pain barrier busting, chips are down, fight to the death-er. History and on field proof at Manchester City suggests otherwise, outside of one good season.
Despite all the bravado, that well known fragility City fans have defended him over down the years still persists: 'I'm not really a highly-self-confident person.' is a telling confession, but he counters it almost immediately with another wild accusation dismissing the credentials of World Cup Winners David Silva and Patrick Vieira and established international stars Jerome Boateng, YaYa Toure, Aleksander Kolarov, James Milner and Mario Balotelli:
'I can easily say I've got, if not more ability, as much ability as any player they have signed this year.'
Stunning delusion of course and he singles out James Milner for special attention:
'I guess James Milner must think the grass is greener on the other side. He's going to get a shock soon because it's definitely not that way. I can understand why James Milner has gone there but I can tell him that I'm very happy to leave there and come here...
Ireland was plagued with a recurrent ankle injury throughout the second half of last season which kept him out of some big games, yet he was repeatedly given opportunities by Mancini to prove himself. However, the player alludes to regular benchwarming.
'At Manchester City sitting on the bench I didn't feel part of the team. I was neither happy or sad if we lost.'
Surely most players don't like sitting on the bench. The likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea have been 'rotating' superstars for years. Quite why City are being singled out for rotation problems having signed 6 players and offloaded 13 this summer is mystifying, but another story.
In point of fact, a brief check through the VMC Archives reveals that after each injury, Ireland was brought straight back into the squad by Mancini. During 21 games under the Italian, he started 6 times and was on the bench 7 times. Evidently, he thinks he is better than ever needing to fight for his place.
Mark Hughes regularly brought Ireland off, even against the likes of Scunthorpe United during a mainly injury free first half of last season. His wretched form saw him benched by the Welshman he speaks so fondly of 5 times during his 22 games in charge.
12 substitute appearances through pisspoor form or injury hardly constitute being 'unwanted.'
We should see Ireland at Eastlands at Christmas, but place your bets now that another 'niggling knock' will see he doesn't make the team bus.
Happy 24th Birthday on Sunday, Stevie, the been there, seen it, done it, veteran.
Date:Saturday August 21 2010
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