Ireland answers country's call as a supporter
Stephen Ireland has joined the ranks of the Ireland football supporters.
The Newcastle United midfielder told the Sunday Independent that he is rooting for the national team and now sees himself as more of an Irish fan than an Irish footballer.
"I have a lot of friends on the team and I want them to succeed and do well as individuals and as my friends," admitted Ireland.
"I have no bad thoughts or feelings towards them or the team. I want my friends to achieve something, I played with so many of those guys in different age groups and I still talk to a lot of them regularly."
The controversial footballer was in Dublin on Friday night with his girlfriend, Jessica, at the VIP Style Awards. Ireland had fully intended to go watch last night's Euro 2012 qualifying game against Macedonia; however a call to return to Newcastle first-team training today meant he had to change his plans at the last minute.
"I spoke to a few of the players and I had made plans to go and watch," he confirmed. "It would have been nice to kill two birds with one stone, be there for Jessica and then get to the game.
"It would have been my first time going to see them play in a while. Obviously I watch them on TV but I haven't watched them live. I haven't had the opportunity, when I come home to Ireland I usually go to Cork rather than Dublin. It would have been a nice bonus to go to the game."
Although he missed out on seeing last night's game, Ireland hasn't ruled out going to see his former team play in the future. Despite all that has happened over the last few years, he doesn't feel any way intimidated or afraid of going to see Ireland play.
But for now he is focusing on his career with Newcastle, starting today.
"Hopefully I can play the next eight or nine games and crack on with the season. I need to get playing as soon as I can. It's been a nightmare year for me with bad circumstances so I just need to get back playing. But I like Newcastle, it's a nice club, nice fans, nice city and I'm enjoying it."
It will also be his first time back training since he hit the headlines for posing in a controversial photo in a Newcastle night club with team-mate Leon Best. The picture was taken just over a week ago, the night before Newcastle's Premier League game against Stoke.
"That killed me because basically I had been injured for three months and Leon Best had just got injured.
"We couldn't celebrate St Patrick's Day because it was on Thursday and we'd training so on Friday we decided to pop out and celebrate it for a couple of hours amongst ourselves. Usually in clubs if fans come up to take a picture I say of course.
"I'm always happy to talk to fans. I love doing that but if it's going to get you in trouble then it will have to take a back seat."
The pair issued a joint apology for their actions but according to manager Alan Pardew, they are due to be disciplined when both players resume club training.
Sunday Indo Sport