Ireland’s transfer request set to signal a Summer departure?
Reports emerged last night that City had reluctantly accepted a transfer request from Stephen Ireland. Speculation has been rife that Stevie is set to leave this Summer along with fellow Academy graduates Nedum Onuoha, Micah Richards and Shaun Wright-Phillips. Each has had disappointing seasons for their own reasons, but it would still be a shame to see them leave.
Ireland saw the team formation switch primarily to 4-4-2 and lost the opportunity to play in his best position behind a striker, and free from excessive defensive duties. By the end of the season Tevez was practically playing in Ireland’s position behind Adebayor, and looking world class in it.
Stevie can do a job on the flanks but isn’t a winger. Likewise his limited tackling and desire to get forward limit him in a midfield pair.
Injuries also came at the wrong time under Mancini. It was cruel to see Ireland’s season effectively ended by a cynical foul by Everton’s Heitinga, and ironic to see Arteta now being linked as a replacement. A few good performances in those closing games might have convinced Mancini of his merits, and given Stevie more belief in his future at Eastlands.
It’s an open secret that Mancini is looking for a creative midfielder with Arteta the latest linked name on a list that includes Milner, Gerrard, Ozil, Hamsik and Gourcuff – enough to make anyone worry for their place.
Maybe two of these, rather than one would be set to arrive if Ireland departs. All have their merits, though it would still be sad to see last year’s player of the season leave.
Although Mancini has yet to see the best of Stevie, neither he nor anyone else at the club seems to want the player out. It’s just Stevie’s famed state of mind that requires games and good performances to keep him happy.
Nothing wrong with that, but he would be better advised to give it another season. Particularly one where we could be playing 60 plus games if Mancini is true to his word in taking the Europa League seriously. With a squad limit of 25, plus under-21s (of which we don’t have many ready for the first team) there will be plenty of games for everyone, and Stevie will get his opportunities.
It’s worth remembering this isn’t the first time Stevie has been linked with a move away. Most famously, Danny Mills informed the nation on live television that the reason for Ireland being omitted from the squad for a pre-season friendly against AC Milan in August 2008 was that he was signing for Sunderland. Nice one Danny. The M.E.N. say today that Ireland’s request was verbal and there’s still to be discussions between player and club.
Of course, the question for City is whether Ireland is good enough to take us where we want to go. As with his fellow Academy graduates Richards and Wright-Phillips, supporters are divided.
Blessed with terrific natural ability, and a familiarity with the Premier League, Stevie can produce match winning moments. Both Wenger and Ferguson are said to be admirers – questions would rightly be asked if he was to go and star under their tutelage. However there is an undeniable inconsistency, where attempts to play the killer ball often see possession wasted and there’s to many games which he fails to influence.
Like Onuoha and Richards, Ireland is no doubt set for a long career in the Premier League. Whether it’s in the Champions League positions is the question, and in Ireland’s case he suffers in comparison to the consistency shown by Fabregas – a player of similar age.
Of course Stevie’s still relatively young and likely to improve his craft and decision making, as central midfielders do with experience. If he does go on to add consistency to his game, then Ireland would be an asset for any top four side. And that’s why City should try to convince him to give it another year. As we all know, a lot can change at City in that time!
- Do you think Ireland should stick it out?