Stephen Ireland: Talentspotter

Aston Villa and Ireland midfielder Stephen Ireland talks to FourFourTwo while at Manchester City in 2006.

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Growing up back home I had the nickname 'Tally’. I really haven’t a clue why, and I don’t think my friends know either.

Team supported
Manchester United until I arrived at City aged 14 and everything changed.

Clubs played for
Cobh Ramblers and Manchester City.

I love going forward with the ball and attacking.

I need more experience and to build myself up a bit more before I find my feet.

There’s only one person I’d cite as my hero and that’s Eric Cantona. I like Ronaldinho and Zidane but the player I look up to the most and still have a massive picture of in my house is Cantona. I’m his biggest fan and I always try to learn from him by watching well-worn videos. You couldn’t second-guess him; his range of passing was fantastic.

I play a bit like…
I don’t have a clue on this one. A few people at the club have said I remind them a bit of Eyal Berkovic. I love playing from box-to-box and defending as well, but my main trait is going forward.

So far it would have to be breaking into the first team. I never thought my chance would come this quickly, and I never thought I’d achieve what I have done so far. Only a few months ago I was asking myself if I had a chance at City, and then I came on as sub against Bolton and since then things have taken off. Now I need to be consistent and prove myself.

Breaking my wrist at the start of the season against Olympiakos – that knocked my confidence right down. I’d played a lot in pre-season and thought I had a really good chance of maybe making the bench for the first game of the season. I still travelled with the squad but couldn’t play and I got really down about it for a while. I thought I might have slipped out of the manager’s mind, but I didn’t, which I’m very grateful for.

Toughest opponent
When we played West Ham, their left-winger Matthew Etherington came inside into the hole and I had to constantly check over my shoulder. He caused me a few problems so he’s been my toughest opponent so far. Doriva of Middlesbrough was difficult for half a game, too.

Best player played with
All the lads in City’s first team plus the Academy lads I played alongside for four years.

Biggest practical joker
Robbie Fowler is very funny and Ben Thatcher is a lunatic – he’s got a screw loose or something!

Biggest influence
There are a lot of inspiring people at the club including coaches Steve Wigley, Juan Carlos Osorio and the gaffer. Every conversation I have with Steve Wigley is inspiring and when you’re playing he will always pull you to one side and give you sound advice. He has a very good eye for things and has been brilliant since he’s been at the club.

I’m a big Robbie Williams fan and I also love R’n’B music, particularly Jagged Edge, 50 Cent and One Twelve.

I’m still struggling to drive – if you ask me again in 10 years I still won’t be driving. I just can’t drive and even when I’ve booked in lessons the football seems to get in the way and I just can’t be bothered. I’m way too lazy.

I’ve been settled with my girlfriend for about two years now and we have a baby boy, Joshua, and they’re both brilliant. Living with them has given me great confidence and I don’t look at anyone else!

I love movies, especially horror films but I get very scared watching them. I like action movies and comedies, too. I laugh at... Billy Connolly – I just love him, I’m his biggest fan ever. I’ve never seen him live but I’m waiting for his next UK tour patiently.

Holiday destination
I spent four nights in Marbella with my family recently. It was the first time away as a family together and I loved it.

If I hadn’t been a footballer...
I’d be really struggling and I haven’t a clue what I’d be doing. I’ve dedicated myself to football and I’ve never considered anything else.

In five years time I’ll be…
Hopefully enjoying my fifth season in the first team for City and playing international football – but seeing as I can play for England, Ireland and Italy, I’m not sure who it will be for.

Describe yourself in five words
Quiet, calm and family orientated.

Interview: David Clayton. From the January 2006 issue of FourFourTwo.