Why are they bothering having a Young Player Of The Year vote this season is beyond me as Stephen Ireland is head and shoulders above every other candidate playing in the Premiership this season. Ireland has been in magnificent form since the season started and with everything going on at Manchester City on and off the pitch, has been a wonderfully consistent performer for the City.
Ireland has really begun to show the consistency his early appearances promised when he made his breakthrough back in the 2005-2006 season and this season he has been in exceptionally form in City’s midfield. It also seems that Ireland has managed to put his very ill advised lies of September 2007 behind him and begun to concentrate on playing football.
How the Republic Of Ireland must be wishing he would return from his self imposed exile to add his beautiful range of passing and eye for important goals to a lacklustre midfield. To say Trapattoni and Brady rate the young midfielder would be an understatement but he has so far refused any attempts to re-introduce him back into the international fold. It’s a situation I can’t really understand when a player simply refuses to play for his country at such a young age, but that shouldn’t detract from his performances this season.
I hope he does return to International football soon though, it would be a shame for such a footballing talent to not garner the international career and caps his talent deserves, but ultimately only Ireland can make the decision to wear the emerald shirt once more. Let’s hope that Shay Given joining Manchester City will perhaps lead Ireland to make himself available for the next international squad in June. When you’re in a qualifying group with Italy and Bulgaria, you need your best players available, Ireland easily finds himself at the top table quality wise for his country. Yet I don’t suppose Mark Hughes will be that sad to see him staying fresh for Manchester City, as they attempt to topple SV Hamburg in the UEFA Cup next week.
He’s been head and shoulders above any of his potential rivals for the Young Player Of The Year award and for me, one of the best midfielders regardless of age this season. It would have been easy for Ireland to hide this season as City got linked with virtually every player in Europe, but his game seems to have gone from strength to strength since Abu Dhabi United bought the club. The constant linking of his employers to top quality players seems to have become a driving force behind his play. He was always a great passer of the ball, but now he makes more bursts into the box and his eye for goal has really sharpened up. His set piece deliver is consistently dangerous, his link play, eye catching. For a man of 22, he sometimes shows dazzling maturity with the ball at his feet.
I can’t see any other young player coming close to him this season, Ashley Young has fallen away as has his team mate Gabriel Agbonlahor, Theo Walcott has missed too much of the season, Aaron Lennon whilst good, has yet to deliver consistent form over a seasons length.Ireland has been immense this season and deserves to be the first Irishman to win the Young Player of the Year award and the first Manchester City player to win it since Peter Barnes in 1975-1976. It’s richly deserved.