Tuesday 24 October 2017

Ireland keen to keep starting spot

Stephen Ireland wants an extended run in the Stoke team
Stephen Ireland wants an extended run in the Stoke team

Stoke midfielder Stephen Ireland has vowed to do all he can for the rest of the season to fill the void left by Bojan Krkic's injury.

The Potters suffered a major setback around a week ago when influential playmaker Bojan sustained cruciate knee ligament damage that ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign.

The Spaniard was replaced in the first XI for Saturday's Barclays Premier League home clash with QPR by Ireland - only his fifth start this term, two months on from the previous one.

And the 28-year-old Irishman made the most of his opportunity, providing the assists from which Jonathan Walters scored the opening two goals of his hat-trick in Stoke's 3-1 victory.

Asked if he felt he could fill the gap in Bojan's absence, Ireland said: "That's the plan - that's my aim, my goal.

"It's a shame he got injured because he is a vital player for us. He is going to be missed, but luckily for me it was me who has gone in there and taken his spot.

"I have to step up and keep that shirt now because I want to finish the season off strong and play as many minutes as I can.

"Anything can change, but at the moment I'm the guy who has stepped in and it's my chance to take - which I did (against QPR)."

Due to some injuries of his own as well as the selection decisions of Stoke boss Mark Hughes, Ireland has made a total of just 10 appearances so far this season.

Four of those have come in the Potters' last five games, which have also seen Ireland score three times in the FA Cup.

And on his return to form, he added: "It was nice to get a start against QPR and perform quite well because I have been patient and had to wait a long time.

"It's been frustrating because I've been itching to get on the pitch and it just hasn't been happening.

"I'm 28 now and I want to be playing week in and week out.

"It's not nice to just be sitting there. I support the team and want them to do well but I want to be more involved."

Meanwhile, Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross will be assessed after coming off in first half of the QPR match due to injury.

Shawcross recently missed a victory at Leicester with a groin problem.

And regarding the centre-back's departure from the field on Saturday, Hughes said: "His groin and back were sore and he was just all locked up.

"We'll have to have a look at him."

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