Premier League - Ireland denies 'death better than Cork' claim

Fri, 04 Mar 14:13:00 2011

Stephen Ireland has claimed that his words were taken out of context after press reported his incredible attack on both his home nation of Ireland and his former club Aston Villa.

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Speaking to French football magazine So Foot, the 24-year-old had claimed that he would "rather shoot myself" than live in Cork, and that, "I don't give a damn for Ireland", though he now claims that his remarks were both misquoted and taken out of context.

"I'm upset with what has been printed this morning because I feel like I've been portrayed in the wrong way," Ireland said in a statement issued from his agent.

"I was misquoted and things have been blown way out of proportion. That is the reason why I feel like I needed to say something because the quotes are very unfair...

"What I said during the interview has been twisted to sound particularly blunt and a lot of what was written about my hometown of Cork - which me and my family visit regularly - was just plain ridiculous."

The damage appears to have been done already, however, with the former Manchester City player now seemingly unlikely ever to return to the Midlands after criticising Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier.

Ireland, who is set to make his Newcastle debut this weekend, had explained to the magazine how he could not understand why Houllier refused to put him in the side.

"After 15 matches on the bench Houllier told me to stay at home," he added. "I trained during the week and on Fridays he told me, 'no point your coming, you are not in the team'.

"Yet I was the best player in training. It was my team that won in every session. One of the few times he played me, we drew 0-0 at Chelsea and I ended up man of the match.

"Apparently that didn't matter to him. I was stuck with being paid for doing nothing at all."

Ireland had added that he was forced to pay for his own medical treatment while injured, and that despite being left out of the side Houllier tried to demand that he move down from Manchester to Birmingham.

"Houllier asked me to come and live in Birmingham because it was taking me 75 minutes to come to training. But there were 15 players in the same position as me. Some came from London and took more than two hours, but he only asked me to move.

“For a start, Birmingham is a c**p city and I wasn’t going to make the effort, especially as I wasn’t playing. Might as well be in Manchester if I had to stay home on match days."

But the player now claims that his criticism of the Midlands city were similarly twisted.

"The comments regarding Birmingham were also taken way out of context," he said. "I had only been at Villa a few months and didn't even live there so I have no idea what Birmingham is like to live in and everyone I have met from Birmingham has been nice, my girlfriend's father is from Birmingham."

The £70,000-a-week star, who turned his back on playing for his national side four years ago, did not apologise for his comments about the land of his birth after he expressed little sympathy for the economic meltdown that has put a huge strain on the Emerald Isle.

"Ireland is only reaping what it has sown," he said,

"They have put buildings up just for the sake of it and, in the end, no one lives inside them. That has cost a huge amount of money."

Ireland had added that he would never play for his country again - no matter what the circumstances.

"National teams don't interest me. I have more to do than go off for three days to play Andorra," he said. "And when you are Irish, you are well aware you'll never win the World Cup.

"I feel nothing for the team. I absolutely don't feel guilty when they lose and, when they win, at no time do I think I could have been there.

"Even if Ireland had qualified for the World Cup, I wouldn't have gone. People call for my return, but I have only played five times for them. The national team and me are ancient history."

PA Sport

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