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Attitude of Ireland will make clubs think twice

IT didn't take long. Stephen Ireland doesn't hang around when he doesn't get his way, and Manchester City fans may see the last of him this weekend.

"There is a question mark over next year for me," he said. "I don't know what will happen. I am contracted to City and all I can do is carry on doing my job and performing well when I am called upon."

The important words in that sentence are the last five, and loaded as they are with the suggestion that City boss Roberto Mancini has not called upon the Irishman enough this season.

"If anything changes during the summer it will be down to the club, not me," said Ireland, the bluer-than-blue darling of Eastlands.

His undying passion for Manchester City could be given a very searching test in the next few months if gossip emanating from Old Trafford carries any weight.

Interest from Alex Ferguson might just intersect with Ireland's ego and who knows what decision might be made in such a strange place?

Ireland signed on the dotted line for a new five-year term under Mark Hughes last summer and, within six months, had dismissed the Welshman as a restrictive figure in his evolution as a player.

Now it would seem as if Mancini is also on the black list, leading to one inescapable conclusion. Brian Kerr, Giovanni Trapattoni, Hughes and Mancini are a bunch of goons who don't appreciate genius when they see it.


Ahem ... there is another possibility. Perhaps all of the above understand his genius but don't like his attitude.

"It has been a difficult year because I care so much about my job," Ireland said. "I care about my game and about the club, but there is a lot of frustration bottled up because I have not played as much as I would have liked."

If he was as smart and as committed as he says he is, Ireland should knuckle down and keep his mouth shut.

Instead, he throws out a few helpful remarks on the day after City's Champions League hopes died, no doubt convinced he would have made the difference.

He has obviously decided that Mancini is fair game and that it's every man for himself. Lovely.

Ferguson is a brave man if he takes on Ireland as a challenge, although a more likely candidate for the job is Arsene Wenger or even Carlo Ancelotti -- and there lies the great pity.

All of the top clubs in the UK will look hard at Ireland if he wants to leave Eastlands, but they will see a player who has fallen out with too many managers in too short a time and will think twice.