Stephen Ireland has marked his arrival at Aston Villa with some harsh comments about former club Manchester City. “I’m glad to be out of there,” he says.
Ireland, who joined the club this week as part of the deal that took James Milner the other way, claimed that Milner is in for a shock when he discovers what life is really like at newly wealthy Eastlands.
There, he says, Milner will find young players “coming in with £10,000 watches on their wrists and walking around like they have played 200 games in the Premier League.”
He also said that manager Roberto Mancini had failed to develop relationships with players. “When I spoke with Patrick (Vieira), he said that he worked with Mancini for seven or eight years but he didn’t have one with him either. I think that’s the way Mancini is. He has everyone on edge.”
Ireland will probably go straight in to the Villa line up for their game at Newcastle on Sunday. Although Villa are carrying a few injury problems, they are 11/8 to win at St James Park after shining in their opener against West Ham. Newcastle are 15/8 to win.
More intriguing is the question of how much Ireland’s comments – and his departure – reflect on City’s ability to compete.
City are currently third favourites in the betting to win the Premier League, at 6/1, a price that looks tempting if you believe Chelsea and United’s sparkling opening weekend will soon give way to ageing squad syndrome.
Ireland was well known for his ceaseless work ethic, once famously spending a summer running up slag heaps with an army PT instructor while his colleagues hit the beaches.
His comments imply that without the graft and loyalty players such as himself provided, City will flatter to deceive.
A huge test of City’s seriousness as title contenders comes on Monday night, when they meet Liverpool at Eastlands. City are 11/8 to win, yet they have only beaten Liverpool once in their last ten league meetings in Manchester.