Thursday 22 March 2018

Stephen Ireland returns to a Premier League starting line-up as Stoke take on Man United at Old Trafford

Stoke midfielder Stephen Ireland
Stoke midfielder Stephen Ireland
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Stephen Ireland will make his first start in the Premier League start since April 2015 after he was named in the Stoke team that will take on Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday night.

Ireland has endued a long fightback to full fitness after a double leg break put his career under threat, but he will make a comeback on one of the biggest stages of world football as Stoke take on United.

The midfielder spoke of his anguish in an interview with the Telegraph earlier this month, as he outlined the agony he has been through on the road to recovery.

“I remember what happened as clear as day," he said. "It was a very relaxed session and in the last 15 seconds I was going for the tackle and nudged the ball off line and he [Teixeira] judged it wrong.

“He kicked through with his heel on my shinbone. I heard it snap and knew instantly it was broken. I was hopping on my right leg and looked down at my left leg – the ankle and foot was like jelly, swinging.

“I have quite a high pain threshold but this was something else. It was so gruesome. I’d have done anything to go back in time three seconds and pull out of the challenge. I knew it was going to be life-changing. Teixeira was sitting there, tears in his eyes and he’s now since passed away, God rest his soul [from a heart attack in November 2017].

“The thing that will stay with me for the rest of my life was lying on the floor and looking up at Phil Bardsley. He was standing over me, he grabbed his head with both hands and screamed ‘Oh my God’ dead loud. I knew from his reaction I was in trouble. It just felt like my time, part of my story and to see if I was ready for the challenge.”

Lifted off the training pitch at Clayton Wood by team-mates, he was already preparing for an absence of up to nine months. As he waited for the ambulance to arrive, for what seemed like an eternity, the day then descended into high farce.

“What happened next was like something out of a film, it was crazy. The ambulance took ages. I was waiting, getting more and more annoyed because I just wanted the operation.

“We eventually got to the hospital and the paramedic ripped me so hard out of the ambulance that I bit down on my gas and air and one of my front teeth fell out.

“It was like something out of a cartoon, I saw it flying out of my mouth, out of the ambulance and on to the floor. I was escorted to a bed in hospital and asking for them to please find my tooth. He came back with a stone... I went mad.

“They finally found the tooth under the wheel of the ambulance. I was struggling to lodge it back in. I was just thinking ‘what’s next’. Well, I was getting married two weeks later.

“We went ahead with the wedding but I can barely remember it. I wasn’t in a wheelchair but it wasn’t the same experience. I was on such a high dose of painkillers that I didn’t feel myself, emotionally.”

Coach Eddie Niedzwiecki is in charge of Stoke for the game at Old Trafford, with new boss Paul Lambert officially set to take over tomorrow.

Meanwhile, United manager Jose Mourinho has recalled striker Romelu Lukaku to up front and he has also recalled captain Antonio Valencia after both missed last Friday's FA Cup win against Derby.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been left out of the entire Manchester United squad, amid rumours that he is mulling over a move to Arsenal as part of a deal that will see Alexis Sanchez move to Old Trafford.

Online Editors

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