Aston Villa transfer news: Stoke City make Ireland loan permanent

Clive Rose

We can finally close the book on Stephen Ireland and his time at Aston Villa.

A week after we first heard rumblings that Stoke City wanted to make Stephen Ireland's loan move permanent, we've got official confirmation of that happening. Aston Villa will give up Ireland on a free transfer three and a half years after he came to Birmingham as a major make-weight in the James Milner deal with Manchester City. It's safe to say that the deal did not work out well for Villa, as they have arguably not had a midfielder as good as Milner since his departure, and Ireland was largely unproductive despite his high wages.

Stoke City, for their part, are forced into making this move because of their desire to nab another loanee. They are rumoured to be after Manchester City's John Guidetti. Last week I was confused as to why The Potters would sign Ireland before his season-long loan was up; after all, he would be a free agent in the summer and they could sign him then, without having a significant impact on their wage bill in the meantime. The emergence of their desire to get Guidetti, though, makes the reasoning behind the change clear.

I know a lot of people really hated Ireland, but I've always felt a little sorry for him. It must be insanely frustrating to go from being Manchester City's player of the year to being someone who couldn't even make the bench at Aston Villa. Yes, he had his problems, but for some reason I connect with Ireland at a more human level, and just feel badly for him. Here's hoping that he can turn things around and salvage something out of what once was a very promising career.

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