Ireland deal done?
Newcastle United are reported to have completed the loan signing of Stephen Ireland from Aston Villa. TOTT takes a look at his career so far.
It does seem ironic that Ireland moved to Villa in part exchange for James Milner, effectively paid for by Villa`s profit on the former Newcastle midfielder. Ireland`s valuation was roughly the same as the profit which the Magpies made on Milner.
For the time being at least, it seems that Ireland will be reunited with his former Manchester City colleague, Joey Barton, although it remains to be seen whether they will be played in partnership. Ireland is known for playing centrally, a position already occupied by Nolan, Barton, Guthrie, Tiote, the injured Smith and Gosling, and potentially Ben Arfa.
Ireland is no stranger to the North East, his last match at St James` Park being memorable, a 6-0 home win whilst he was making his Villa debut.
Some of the landmarks in his career have been against North East clubs, creating fireworks with his first home Premier League goal, a winner against Sunderland on 5th November 2007. He repeated the feat away at Sunderland the following season with his 2nd away PL goal, his 3rd a late equalizer in a 2-2 draw at St James`. He also featured in the stunning 8-1 Man City defeat at Middlesbrough in May 2008.
Having scored twice against Sunderland, Ireland could make his Newcastle debut against Fulham, another club that he has scored twice against. Both of his goals were openers, in a 3-2 defeat in April 2008 at Craven Cottage, to be followed by a 3-1 defeat almost exactly a year later at the City of Manchester stadium.
Labelled as an attacking midfielder, Ireland`s career record features a scoring average of around 1 in 10, except for the 2008-09 season, which saw his rate boosted to slightly better than 1in 4 across all competitions. Ironically, this was without Barton with who he had worked well earlier in his stay at City.
Pardew was on record as saying he wanted to bring in an offensive player, with the question mark over what was meant by the word "offensive". Ireland will be remembered for dropping out of his national squad, first claiming the death of his maternal grandmother, followed by the claim relating to his paternal grandmother, then his step grandmother and finally his girlfriend`s miscarriage, none of which, surprisingly, turned out to be true.
The player has an undoubted natural talent. The question for him is whether he can break into a team which seems to have its greatest strength in depth in Ireland`s position.
There are more questions for the supporters. Does his arrival mean that Pardew is to shape his own side, and is the prospect of a permanent deal at the end of the season a clue as to which of Hughton`s band of brothers will be eased out? How will this affect the opportunities for younger players, such as Vuckic?
In the shorter term, Pardew began his reign with a 4-5-1, a system abandoned by his predecessor. Does the addition of depth in midfield suggest a shift to a different tactical approach?
At the time of writing, there is no news to suggest that some of the parts of the squad lacking cover, notably full back and right wing, will be covered. Ireland`s signing can only be a sensible move if there are more to come.
So far in this transfer window, we have seen a variety of players going out on loan, Tavernier and Kadar, mean even less defensive cover. Routledge to QPR has removed a wide option. Smith`s injury means a distinct lack of reserve in the holding role, whilst Xisco`s imminent return to Deportivo comes after a pre-season when he covered on the left wing.
Stephen Ireland thrived under Pearce, Eriksson and Hughes. His application has been questioned by novices Mancini, Trappatoni and Houllier. Does Pardew have the experience to resurrect the player`s career?