Ireland not returning to international football


Manchester City midfielder Stephen Ireland has confirmed he will not be returning to the international fold with the Republic of Ireland.

Ireland says he always resented international football – and that he will never represent the Republic of Ireland again. Ireland’s last appearance for the international team came under Steve Staunton more than two years ago.

The City star insists he has no thoughts of returning to the fold – regardless of whether Giovanni Trapattoni’s side book a place in next summer’s World Cup finals.

Speaking about his international career as a whole, Ireland insists that the roots of his decision to distance himself from the national team go all the way back to his mid-teens.

In a candid interview with the Daily Mirror, he said: “Even with the prospect of the World Cup, it hasn’t crossed my mind once about going back. I never felt part of the squad and I never will.

“My parents encouraged me to play and said it was really important for my development. I played for the under-14s, under-15s and so on, but as soon as I came over here and signed my contract with City, I said ’that’s it’. I rejected going to a lot of the squads.

“I got called up to the full squad under Brian Kerr, then we had a massive fall-out. I stayed away for two or three years, which was a blessing in disguise. Then Steve Staunton called me up, and I’d just broken into the City team, so I felt I had to go. But after two or three squads I was thinking ’what am I doing here?’.

“There were times I’d finish a game with City at 8pm, then I was meant to meet up with the Ireland squad at 10pm in Dublin. I’d just ring up and say I don’t feel well. There was nothing wrong with me, I just had no intention of ever going. I just never enjoyed it.”

Ireland wishes his former team-mates well in their quest to reach South Africa next summer, but he insists he has no longing to be involved.

”When I watch Ireland games it’s weird,” he said. ”It’s like I was never there and I don’t miss it all if I’m honest. People forget that I only played six games. I just seem to be into the routine and the mindset that when the international break comes around, I’m not there.

“I love being able to do things with my kids. During the last international break they were about to start school, so it was nice to take them away for a few days. When the international break comes around it’s like ’great, what am I doing with the kids’, not ’oh I hope I’m not in the squad’.

“A lot of people would probably think I’d love to go to the World Cup, but to be honest it hasn’t really crossed my mind once. I hope they get there, it would be great for the country if they did. It would be a massive achievement for the manager and the players [but] personally, I think internationals are going to be something of the past. The pride of it and all that, I just think it’s getting lesser and lesser.

“Players these days don’t see as pride in their country, they see it more as a chore, you know ’God, I have to go again’. That was the way it always was for me. I think you’ll be surprised how many players – young ones at that – who will retire from international football after the World Cup.

“Look how many games they play a year, and all the pressure from club football, it’s hard to see many players really enjoying international football any more.”

The 23-year-old also repeated accusation’s of Trapattoni’s arrogance, alleging that the veteran Italian answered FOUR DIFFERENT PHONES during their meeting to discuss a possible return.

He said: “I met Trapattoni for a chat at a hotel near Manchester Airport last year but that did nothing for me. It made no sense whatseover. In fact, I felt like there was a lot of arrogance going on, so I just felt like I wasn’t really interested.

“Me and my financial adviser, who’s looked after me all my life and is someone I really trust, sat down with Trapattoni, his right-hand man and Liam Brady. In the middle of chatting, like we are now, he’d have four different phones going off and he kept leaving the room to talk to people.

“He’d come back, say ’sorry where was I?’ but then another one would go off and after the third or fourth time this happened, I heard another phone ringing. Trapattoni went over to where the phone was ringing and got it out of one of his bags. We were just sat there like, ’what is going on?’.

“After that we had a chat and, I guess he shouldn’t have to sell it to me. But I think he should have made some sort of effort to sell it to me, and he just never really did that. I think he felt like I’d just want to come running back, because I think at the time he didn’t rate me as a player.

“But that was before last season. Since then he hasn’t spoken to me once. Then, over the summer, Ireland had a game away against Bulgaria. A week before that game I was in my garden, playing with the kids. I answered my phone by accident, as I was checking the time, and it was Trapattoni.

“He asked me if there was a possibility of meeting up in the future. I hadn’t given it any thought, but I said guess there was no harm in meeting him. I thought he meant in the next few days, for the Bulgaria game. I said ’when?’ and he said ’four months’. I thought that was weird, but I said I suppose it wouldn’t do any harm.

“But I think he made that call for his own benefit, rather than mine, because he said to me ’Is it okay if I tell the press I’ve spoken to you and there’s a chance of you coming back?’.

“I said ’you can tell people we’ve spoken and maybe we’ll meet up in the future, but don’t say there’s a chance of me coming back because there probably isn’t’. As soon as he switched from taking about meeting up with me to announcing it to the media, I knew what his agenda was.”

The Author

Kevin Coleman

Founder and co-editor of Back Page Football and current host of our 'Three At The Back' weekly podcast.

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