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Aston Villa tell Stephen Ireland he's free to walk

Stephen Ireland is free to leave Aston Villa as the club continue to find ways to reduce the wage bill. But what clubs will be willing to take on such high wages for a man who hasn't played a Premier League match since last December?

Laurence Griffiths

It seems Aston Villa have told Stephen Ireland that he's free to find a new club -- although one imagines that the words used were much more along the lines of, "Hey, mate, you're sucking up a huge part of the wage bill and you're doing #*&! all so how's about doing us a favor and setting up shop elsewhere?"

Since joining the Villa as part of the deal that saw James Milner moving to Manchester City, and had his debut on the day his new side fell 6-0 to Newcastle. Such an inauspicious beginning would turn out to be quite indicative of future events. Ireland showed glimpses of the talent that saw him named City's Player of the Season in 2009, but despite being named Aston Villa Fans' Player of the Season at the end of the dreary year of 2012, Ireland just never quite cut it.

The midfielder would have a few decent matches, but he never seemed to be able to string his good performances out for any length of time. Gerard Houllier stated he needed to work harder. He was loaned to Newcastle and had just two performances. Paul Lambert certainly never rated him highly -- most of us aren't even positive he's alive at this time. His last league appearance in claret and blue came in December, against Wigan. All in all, Ireland had 55 appearances in three seasons with Villa, scoring one goal in the process.

So now comes the hard part. Villa have to know they'll take a hit on the £8m they "spent" on Ireland (ie, the £8m less they should have had for Milner), but finding a club that will meet his £65,000 per week wages? That'll be a tricky one. Hope Ireland can find pink paint and gold flooring to decorate his mansion in Russia. Or perhaps China.