If Stephen Ireland leaves, Aston Villa fans will never again confuse him with James Collins. Another plus! (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Will Stephen Ireland still be at Aston Villa come January? Apparently he was "frustrated" at the fact that old man Robert Pirès was handed his full debut as a Villan while Ireland was stuck on the bench. Feel free to add your own "frustrated" jokes here.
According to a few sources, Ireland and his representative are anxious to sit down with the club and figure out where the midfielder's future lies. Villa, of course, are still spinning the "patience" line. They're hoping to put off discussion by making clear that Ireland will need to wait and see--that any future he has at Villa Park depends on how he plays.
It's more than a little sad, how quickly Aston Villa fans have lowered their expectations of Ireland. After multiple games in which his shots went nowhere, his passes found no one and he generally seemed to have no awareness of what was going on on the pitch, we were thrilled when, after entering the match against Arsenal in the 66th minute, Ireland wasn't a complete liability. Villa fans are also ecstatic when John Carew manages to run for more than two paces, for matters of comparison.
Not actively working to hurt the game is not going to cut it in the Houllier regime. Villa need a central midfielder who is actually able to provide service for the wings as well as be aware of when balls are coming through to him, so that he's able to, I don't know, put it in the net? Actively not screwing up is a step, but to use that as a basis for a new contract would be ridiculous. Unless Ireland's performance improves drastically in the next few weeks, that money could be better spent somewhere else. Almost anywhere else, really.
In happy news, Nigel Reo-Coker has been doing some light training with the squad--which is another reason to wonder just how vital Ireland's services really are. If a five-man midfield is to be used, push Barry Bannan up once NRC is healthy.