Belfast Telegraph

‘Unwanted’ Ireland warns James Milner of Manchester City challenge

Aston Villa's new midfielder Stephen Ireland has revealed he felt “unwanted” at Manchester City and believes James Milner faces a battle to establish himself at Eastlands.

Ireland joined Villa as part of the deal that saw Milner move to big-spending City, with the 23-year-old believing he was not given a fair chance under manager Roberto Mancini.

He said: “I did feel unwanted at Manchester City. I was banging my head against a brick wall despite what I had done in training.

“Without a shadow of doubt the situation I found myself in will happen a lot at Manchester City with all the high-profile players they have at the club.

“At Manchester City sitting on the bench I didn't feel part of the team. I was neither happy or sad if we lost.

“I'm still young and hopefully Villa will get the best of me and I am now looking forward to the season.”

The Republic international, who is set to make his Villa debut against Newcastle tomorrow, his 24th birthday, has also warned Milner he may have to get used to not being a certain City starter.

Mancini has a host of world-class players to call on and Ireland said of Milner: “I can see why he wanted to go to Manchester City.

“He can see the attraction of the move and the opportunity to become more established and become a superstar.

“But he faces a challenge of holding down a regular first-team place. I may have been forced out but I couldn't be more happy to be at Aston Villa.

“Richard Dunne is a good example of what can happen after leaving Manchester City to join Villa.

“A year on I can see how happy he is at Villa and I'm hoping that I will be as happy in a year's time.

“It was as big a shock to him as everyone else when he left City, but he could not have come to a better club as he proved with his performances last season.

“For me this is a positive, as this is exactly I want it to be.”

Villa's caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald is delighted to have Ireland on board. He knows the attributes of Ireland as well as anyone, having coached him when he was the assistant to the then Republic manager Steve Staunton.

He said: “Stephen Ireland is a very talented player. He is different from James Milner.

“Stephen’s awareness of where his team-mates are on the pitch is fantastic and his choice on the weight of pass is one of his real plusses.”

As for his own future, MacDonald added: “I have no problem with the timescale as Mr Lerner (Villa's owner Randy Lerner) will be looking seriously at what he wants to do.”

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