Tuesday 24 September 2019

'That will stick with me forever' - Stephen Ireland reveals how he contemplated retiring after 'Grannygate'

'There was no help. I was on £85 a week playing in the Premier League with two kids at 19.'

Stephen Ireland in action during a Euro 2008 qualifier for Ireland against Cyprus in Nicosia, Cyprus. Picture: : David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Stephen Ireland in action during a Euro 2008 qualifier for Ireland against Cyprus in Nicosia, Cyprus. Picture: : David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

Stephen Ireland has claimed the infamous 'Grannygate' incident which spelled the end of his Irish international career 'will stick with me forever.'

In a revealing interview with subscription-based UK website The Athletic, Ireland admits he has regrets over the incident which saw him fake the death of a grandmother to avoid playing for Ireland.

However, the Cork native - now 33 - insists he took the drastic measure to be with his young family.

During a topsy-turvy club career, midfielder Ireland has seen service with Manchester City, Stoke City, Aston Villa, Newcastle and Bolton.

But it was his ill-fated time with Ireland that he fears he'll be remembered for as he recalls wanting to retire from the game during the controversy.

"I just wanted it to blow over and before you know it, it just went boom," Ireland said.

Steve Staunton, pictured during his time as Ireland senior manager. Photo: PA
Steve Staunton, pictured during his time as Ireland senior manager. Photo: PA

"It was mental. Mental. And I'm thinking: 'All I said was something small.'

"I know it's not. I know it's not something you do. It was in the heat of the moment in the changing room after the match. I was buying myself time, basically.

"The other players asked where I was going, so I said: 'Back to England for a few days because my nan’s not well.' They were giving me hugs and that, and I felt like a prick then. Imagine going back in and saying: 'Alright lads, listen…'

"At that point I actually felt like retiring from football. I swear to god, I actually considered retiring from football. I text my accountant and said: 'Do I have enough money to retire?’ And he said: 'Yeah you do, but it depends how much is enough', and I was quite young.

"On reflection, I probably should've gone back and faced the music for a couple of days, but I guess I kind of ran from it. I was doing so well at Man City I didn't want to go back, even more so.

"I wish I had dealt with things differently, that the whole thing was dealt with differently, actually, on both sides, but I wouldn't say I regret not having played for Ireland since.

"It's the family thing, as well. I'm such a family person and I just found it very hard. That's why I respect the guys who do turn up and play 50, 60, 70 times for their country, because they were able to make that sacrifice and they were able to show up every time.

"Unfortunately for Ireland it's not that I didn’t care, I just couldn't do it. That will stick with me forever."

Stephen Ireland (right) shakes hands with David Silva as he leaves the club's Carrington training ground back in 2010. Photo: PA
Stephen Ireland (right) shakes hands with David Silva as he leaves the club's Carrington training ground back in 2010. Photo: PA

Ireland also reveals the impact of having a family at such an early stage of his life as his football career began to blossom.

"At the time there was no real player support. Man City at the time didn't have anything like that in place. There was no help. I was on £85 a week playing in the Premier League with two kids at 19.

"I was turning up to games in a taxi, getting out with a baby in my arms, a little toddler and a wash bag walking into the stadium for the game at City, and the fans must have thought: 'Who's this maniac?'

"I had to go in and play against (Manchester) United and teams like that live on TV and my two kids are being babysat by Trevor Sinclair’s cousin in the players' lounge."

Read the full interview on The Athletic website

Stephen Ireland left Manchester City for an ill-fated move to Aston Villa
Stephen Ireland left Manchester City for an ill-fated move to Aston Villa

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