More confusion over Ireland

Last updated : 09 October 2007 By Ben Collins
The City youngster has admitted he doesn't feel ready for a return to international football after withdrawing from the Republic's last squad in controversial circumstances.

Ireland was granted a release from the squad last month after telling Irish officials his grandmother had died, before revealing that, in fact, he wanted to be with his girlfriend as she had just suffered a miscarriage.

Credit to Ireland for eventually coming clean, and he looked to have put the situation behind him after impressing on his return to the City first team.

Republic coach Steve Staunton showed he was happy to forgive and forget by naming Ireland for the latest Euro 2008 qualifiers, only for Ireland to pull out.

"I have thought long and hard about whether I would do my country and myself justice if I joined up with the squad," Ireland told the City website. "Unfortunately, I don't believe I would on this occasion.

"The support I have received from Mr Staunton and the FAI has been excellent and everybody at Manchester City has also been superb. However, I do not believe I can make a positive contribution to our efforts to qualify."

Now, you might wonder what Ireland is playing at as he was fortunate to be welcomed back into the international fray so soon by Staunton. It's another slap in the face for Staunton and could perhaps cast doubt on Ireland's international future.

However, did Staunton actually speak to Ireland before naming the squad to gauge whether he felt ready to return? If so, there has clearly been a misunderstanding.

Sven certainly felt they had already done enough to convince Ireland he was ready to move on.

"This is disappointing for everybody," said the City boss. "Steve Staunton and I have been working together to help Stephen through a period which he is clearly finding very difficult.

"We together have left no stone unturned in our efforts to convince him he has so much to offer his country and that international football will greatly benefit his long-term career.

"I hope that Stephen will soon feel stable enough to resume his international career."

After the latest twist, I think that's unlikely, but I wish Ireland all the best. He did the wrong thing but he held his hands up and it's clear he regrets his actions - he doesn't deserve to be suffering for this long. Perhaps he still feels he let his country down and can't yet face meeting up again with his international team-mates.

Ireland will learn from this episode and mature - I only hope that when he does, the passion to represent both club and country returns.