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Is Stephen's dream another delusion?

Name-dropping Ireland has aim on international return

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HISTORY: Stephen Ireland during his time as a Manchester City player in the
Premier League. Photo: PA

HISTORY: Stephen Ireland during his time as a Manchester City player in the Premier League. Photo: PA

HISTORY: Stephen Ireland during his time as a Manchester City player in the Premier League. Photo: PA

Nothing was ever understated with the man from Cork.

Whether it was Stephen Ireland's dead grandmothers, Superman underpants, his pink-tinted car, his £100,000 fish tank, his curious hairstyles, the off-field sagas were endless.

In an interview this week, he borrowed the "why always me?" tag from another permanently controversial player, Mario Balotelli.

"Only me. The most bizarre things happen to me. Some of the things that happen to me are absolutely nuts," Ireland said this week.

Amid the scandal and the sad tales, it's important to remember that Stephen Ireland was once a very, very good footballer, at Premier League and international level. And he's still only 33.

Confusion

But the gap between how good Ireland was in his own mind and how good he was in reality is just one example of the delusion and confusion which plagued his career.

In an interview with The Athletic this week, Ireland said he still had a desire to play club football at a high level again. This is a player who has not played a game of football in two years, and who has managed just one full 90 minutes in a league match since January 2018.

"The dream would be: get back with a club, smash it, go back to Ireland and undo all that scenario. Why wouldn't I want to play for my country 150 times? Why wouldn't I want to be an Irish hero?" added the footballer who has not been involved with his country in 13 years.

Ireland is entitled to believe that he could play at a good level again.

And there is a lot in his interview from this week which should shame Manchester City, as Ireland speaks of the bullying culture that was in place when he was a young player there.

But it's the persistent name-dropping from Ireland which weakens his case.

He mentions a recent training session in England with Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes. "He told me that, as a kid, he had a poster of me," Ireland claimed. A 13-year-old in Portugal idolising a player in an average Man City side? Really?

There was a tale of Andrea Pirlo asking to swap shirts after a friendly, a claim that he outshone Lionel Messi in another friendly after which the Barcelona chairman hugged Ireland and called him 'Superman'.

His version, where he got the better of Messi, does not tally with the match reports from the time.

"People think I'm hard to work with, but I am a manager's dream, believe me".

If Ireland, about to turn 34 and without a club for two years, really thinks he can play international football again, he at least has ambition.

But, as always with him, delusion hangs over him like a cloud.