Saluting Stephen: Hughes tells City players to shape up like in-form Ireland

21 March 2009 10:32
Manchester City

boss Mark Hughes believes a number of his players can learn from the new Stephen Ireland.

City midfielder Ireland has been in inspirational form this season after putting the controversies of recent years behind him to concentrate on his football.

The 22-year-old Irishman made more headlines off the field than on last season, most infamously after telling a white lie about the death of a grandmother.

Thumbs up: Manchester City boss Mark Hughes has saluted the 'outstanding' Stephen Ireland's transformation on and off the pitch this season

Now those problems seem to be in the past and Ireland was againsuperb as City secured a place in the last eight of the UEFA Cup inAalborg on Thursday.

'He is having an outstanding season,' said Hughes.

'Wekeep mentioning the season he is having but he is a guy that has a realdrive and determination to have an impact on every game he plays.

'He is prepared to stand up and be counted and put a shift in for the team.

 Manchester City's tough Hamburg test suits Ireland

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'Ithink he is an example to every one of the players in the squad.

'Hemade a decision at the end of last season that he wasn't happy with theway his career was going. He made a conscious effort to do somethingabout it.

'Because of the work that he has done and the worksome of the coaches have put in, it has enabled him to become a betterplayer. Everyone can learn from his example.'

Ireland is hopingto overcome an ankle injury to keep his place in the City side to faceSunderland

in a crucial Premier League encounter at Eastlandstomorrow (Sunday).

In another of his least finest moments,Ireland, who was strongly linked with Sunderland last summer, droppedhis shorts to reveal a pair of Superman underpants after scoring in thecorresponding fixture last season.

Back in the frame: Craig Bellamy could return for City

Wayne Bridge and VincentKompany, with hamstring and toe problems respectively, are doubtful forthe game but Nigel de Jong has overcome a virus.

Striker Craig Bellamy could also return after making a quicker than expected recovery from a knee injury.

Both sides will be anxious for victory to avoid being pulled further into the relegation scrap.

Sunderland go into the game three points behind City in the table.

Hughes said: 'They are in a situation they want to get out of very quickly.

'Theyhave had a change at the top and (manager) Ricky Sbragia, who is awell-respected guy in football circles, has come in and done a good jobof settling things down.

'It's a good game for us. We're goingin on the back of our exploits in Europe and maybe a little bit offreshness could be taken from us, but I don't sense that. The elationof getting through will compensate for that.'

 Manchester City's tough Hamburg test suits Ireland

MANCHESTER CITY v Sunderland: Hughes' injury list grows after European drama

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Source: Daily_Mail