Stephen Ireland, your country needs you

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles

It’s time the Football Association of Ireland got on their hands and knees to beg Stephen Ireland to come back to the international scene.

After a lacklustre display against Poland, that resulted in a 3-2 loss, the Republic of Ireland needs it’s best player, on current Premiership form, back in the side.

After watching a lot of the Irish National side during the last few years under Steve Staunton and Giovanni Trappatoni, it’s apparent to me, that the one thing the Republic of Ireland are missing, is flair. They are predictable and boring to watch. Who are the players who can change a game for Ireland? Only one player comes to mind Robbie Keane. Keane though has suffered a period of inconsistency for Ireland, especially since his move to Liverpool. Damien Duff of 5 or 6 years ago would have been a key player for the national side, but injuries during his time at Chelsea and Newcastle have meant a complete drop in form, and he is barely recognisable as the left winger who used to terrorize defences.

Due to this lack of attacking quality in the Republic of Ireland squad, it infuriates me that Stephen Ireland isn’t wearing the green shirt of Ireland. At the City of Manchester Stadium, despite the big name signings of Robinho, Jo, and Shaun Wright Phillips, it’s the Manchester City’s academy graduate, Ireland who has been grabbing the headlines this season. In the last month alone he has scored 4 goals. Overall this season in his 21 appearances, he has scored 8 goals in all competitions. In the Premier League scoring charts, he is the second highest scoring midfielder only behind Cristiano Ronaldo. In September, he was voted Manchester City’s player of the month by the City faithful. Since his debut in the 2005/06 season, Ireland’s consistent performances have seen him tie down a regular starting place in the blues side. Upon the arrival of Sven Goran Eriksson at the club, he identified Ireland as one of City’s key players.

During the summer, Sunderland tried and failed to sign Ireland, with Mark Hughes, current Manchester City boss, stating that Ireland would be going nowhere and was a key part of his plans. Hughes’ faith has been repaid by the blues number 7, with his fine recent form. It would be no surprise to see him win the Premiership’s ‘Player of the Month’  for November.  His international record isn’t bad either. He has scored 4 times for Ireland, with goals against Cyprus, San Marino, Wales and Slovakia. These 4 goals came in just 6 appearances.

So why is it that Stephen Ireland hasn’t played since September 2007?

The whole ‘Stephen Ireland Saga’ started in September 2007. Days before the Republic of Ireland’s crunch game against Czech Republic, Staunton received a phone call from Stepehen Ireland’s girlfriend informing Staunton that Ireland’s maternal grandmother had died. Upon confirmation by Ireland himself, Staunton and the F.A.I allowed him to go home on compassionate leave. However the Irish media soon discovered that Ireland’s maternal grandmother was alive and well. Ireland released a new statement that it was his paternal grandmother. But this was also untrue. He then said that it was his divorced Granddad’s wife, but, once again, this was completely false. Ireland soon realising that he was caught in a web of lies, and promptly told the truth. He said:

“I decided at that stage that I must tell the truth and admit I had told lies. I realise now it was a massive mistake to say my grandmothers had died and I deeply regret it.”

So the real reason. His girlfriend had suffered a miscarriage and wanted her boyfriend at home. The lies were ridiculous and he was always going to be found out. Why he didn’t come out with the truth in the first place is, to put it mildly, bizarre. After all, it was a valid reason to obtain compassionate leave.

His reasoning : ‘Jessica (his girlfriend) said she was very lonely and wanted me to come home. She thought they might let me home quicker if they thought my grandmother had died’.

Ireland had clearly made some stupid mistakes and was left in  international limbo and hasn’t played for his country since.

In an interview with Setanta sports recently, Ireland expressed no desire to return to the international fold. A worrying statement for Irish fans. After the controversy in 2007, Irish fans were left bewildered with Ireland. However I believe that he would be welcomed back into Croke Park, providing he wanted to be there, playing for his countries. It’s a travesty that Ireland isn’t playing for Ireland. Surely Trappatoni should make getting Ireland back in a green shirt his top priority. Ireland desperately lacks a creative player in midfield. An overweight and unfit Andy Reid is not the answer to Ireland’s woes. The F.A.I should do whatever it takes to get the Manchester City’s number 7 back playing for Ireland. If he wants a private jet to the game, then I say provide it.

If the Republic of Ireland are serious about qualifying for the World Cup in 2010 then Stephen Ireland must be playing.

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