Stephen Ireland has said he hopes to play again for the Republic of Ireland.
Ireland, who is 33 and has not played professionally since 2018, is plotting a return to football. He has hired a personal trainer and has been taking part in kickabouts to keep himself sharp.
The former Manchester City and Stoke City midfielder ultimately hopes to sign another professional contract, two years after his stint with Bolton Wanderers came to an end. He also said he aims to play for Ireland again one day.
“The dream would be: get back with a club, smash it, go back to Ireland and undo all that scenario,” Ireland told Daniel Taylor in an interview with The Athletic.
Stephen Ireland Exile
The Cork-native, who has six caps, last played for Ireland in 2007. Ireland left the squad ahead of a Euro 2008 qualifier against the Czech Republic in September 2007, claiming his grandmother had died. He later changed his story and said it was his other grandmother that had passed away.
It transpired that neither had died and he had lied. Ireland did not want to publicise that his partner had suffered a miscarriage and had invented the grandmother story as a cover. He never played for the Boys in Green again.
Stephen Ireland explained that his absence from the national team in the years since was a result of him wanting to spend more time with his family. His eldest son Joshua is now 16 and an England underage international.
“It came down to prioritising,” he said.
“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.”
Stephen Ireland “Death Threats”
Stephen Ireland also said that he received death threats following the incident that led to his exile from the Ireland national team 2007.
“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.”
Ireland played for Manchester City, Aston Villa, Newcastle United on loan and Stoke City in a Premier League career that lasted 13 years. In six appearances for the Republic of Ireland, he scored four goals.