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'There is so much more to come out of me' - Stephen Ireland wants to play international football again

The 33-year-old is keeping fit in the hope of earning an unlikely recall to the Ireland squad.

Stephen Ireland [file photo].
Stephen Ireland [file photo].
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

FORMER REPUBLIC OF Ireland international Stephen Ireland has revealed that he wants to play for the national side again.

The 33-year-old, who made his Premier League debut for Manchester City at 19, scored four goals in his first six senior appearances for Ireland before the now infamous fall-out known as ‘granny-gate’. 

After starting out as a talent with huge prospects in the English top flight, Ireland’s club career went downhill in latter years after spells with Aston Villa, Newcastle United (on loan) and Stoke City.

He hasn’t played a professional game in two years but in an interview with The Athletic, he said he is “training like an absolute maniac,” and is planning to make a return to professional football.

“I really believe I have three or four years left in me, minimum,” said Ireland, who has also been training alongside Man United stars Bruno Fernandes, Fred and Diego Dalot recently.

“Physically, I feel 27 or 28. I just want to get motoring again because there is so much more to come out of me.”

He added:

The dream would be: get back with a club, smash it, go back to Ireland and undo all that scenario.”

Ireland has not played football at international level in 13 years but is determined to be part of Stephen Kenny’s plans.

His previous stint in an Ireland shirt ended in controversial circumstances when he told the then-manager Steve Staunton that he needed to leave the Ireland camp during a crucial qualifying away trip — claiming his grandmother had passed away.

It subsequently emerged that this was a lie and that Ireland’s girlfriend had suffered a miscarriage.

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Reflecting on that experience, Ireland says his reason for making that decision at the time was based on doing what he felt was best for his children.

He also says he received death threats over his exit from the national team.

“It came down to prioritising. Can I leave my kids for two weeks to play for Ireland? As much as I’d loved to have done that, I couldn’t. I was away at matches, stressed out of my head because of my kids. I had no support. I had to pick option A or option B. But of course, I wish things could have been different.

“Why wouldn’t I want to play for my country 150 times? Why wouldn’t I want to be an Irish hero? Who would turn their nose up at that? Why would it ever be my agenda to be disliked in Ireland?

I had death threats, I had all sorts. Christ, I didn’t want to leave the way I did. I didn’t want to be disliked in my own country but it came out of circumstances which were tough.”

 

- Originally published at 13.57

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