independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Stephen 'not ready for Ireland'

Stephen Ireland, pictured, is not yet ready to return to the Ireland fold, according to Mark Hughes

Stoke manager Mark Hughes does not feel the time is right for Stephen Ireland to return to international football.

The midfielder has said he is willing to consider making himself available for Ireland again following the departure of Giovanni Trapattoni as manager.

But the 27-year-old is still trying to establish himself at Stoke, where he is on a season-long loan, after falling out of favour at Aston Villa.

Ireland has made just four appearances for the Potters, three off the bench, since joining the club last month and that has been his only senior football since January.

On that basis, Hughes feels it is too soon to consider playing again for Ireland, whom he has not represented since 2007.

It had been suggested he could return for this month's World Cup qualifiers but interim national boss Noel King decided against calling him up, despite establishing contact.

Hughes said: "Stephen is still trying to get back to the levels he knows he can reach and at the moment he is not quite there.

"He is very close, but I think getting involved with the international squad would be a little bit premature for him at the moment.

"But certainly he has said he is more than happy to have a conversation in regard to being involved again.

"Probably the actual position of the national team manager needs to be resolved and then he can have that conversation and move it forward."

Ireland has not played for his country since he lied about the death of both of his grandmothers after pulling out of the squad for a European Championship qualifier in the Czech Republic six years ago.

Hughes said: "He is doing very well, his fitness is improving.

"He needed good quality work within the senior group.

"Prior to coming here he was just working with the under-21 development squad.

"That takes the edge off your work, the intensity of work is not what you need to make an impact at Premier League level. The more work he does with us the better he will become."

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