New Aston Villa midfielder Stephen Ireland: James Milner made a mistake in joining Manchester City, where Roberto Mancini 'has everyone on edge'

Ireland felt unwanted at Eastlands, and expects England midfielder to struggle
Aston Villa's new signing Stephen Ireland has questioned the decision of James Milner to join  Manchester City, and believes the England midfielder will find it hard to secure a regular starting berth at Eastlands and therefore struggle to make an impact there.

The Irish midfielder joined the midlands club as part of the £26 million deal that allowed Milner to become yet another addition to Manchester City's expensively assembled squad this summer.

Ireland believes he got the better end of the deal, claiming that City manager Roberto Mancini didn’t give him a fair chance and warning Milner that he'll also find it tough at Eastlands.

"I did feel unwanted at Manchester City,” he told reporters.

"I was banging my head against a brick wall despite what I had done in training.

"I just went with the reserves, worked hard in the gym and kept as active as possible."

Voted City's Player of the Season in 2009, Ireland added: "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 nor sad if we lost."

Regarding Milner, who has declared that he wants to win the Premier League with City, Ireland is convinced the ex-Leeds United and Newcastle United man will find it tough to make an impression, though he admits he understands why he made the move.

“He must think the grass is greener on the other side but he’ll get a shock soon because it’s definitely not that way. I’ve really landed on my feet here.

“James Milner sees the attraction of going to City, he obviously sees the players going there and he wants to be one of those so-called superstars and nail down his place in the England team, become more established and play 90 minutes for England.

“I can understand why he has gone there but I can tell him that I’m very happy to leave there and come here. Some people have used the phrase that I’ve been forced out; I couldn’t be happier to be forced to come here.”

Ireland went on to shed a critical light on the situation behind the scenes at Eastlands.

"I don't think loyalty is much in anyone's mind at Manchester City," he said. "I felt like I would be next [to leave]. A lot of players felt like that as well – the homegrown guys.

"Mancini doesn’t really build relationships with players. He has everybody a bit on edge.

"He brought Patrick Vieira in and when I spoke to him [Vieira] about his relationship [with Mancini], he said he doesn't really have one, and he's worked for him for years. I think that's the way he is."

Ireland is clearly bitter about the way he feels he was treated by Mancini, claiming that his consistently high performance in training deserved greater recognition from the Italian coach.

"I think that was really unfair, all the players know I was the first player into training and the last to leave," he said. "I worked the hardest. With all the heart-rate monitors and tests, I was always No.1, far ahead of everyone. You see the performance in training and I was practically always the best player in training. If [Mancini's] standing there watching that, I don't know how he doesn't see that."

However, the Irishman is now looking forward to getting his career back on track at Villa Park. "I may have been forced out but I couldn't be more happy to be at Aston Villa," he enthused.

"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.

"Richard was a huge part of Manchester City and it was a great shock to see him leave.

"It was as big a shock to him as everyone else 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 how I want it to be. I'm still young and hopefully Villa will get the best of me and I am now looking forward to the season."

Villa's caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald has already had experience of working with the midfielder, during his stint as assistant coach to the then Republic of Ireland manager Steve Staunton.

MacDonald believes Ireland, who is due to make his first Villa appearance against Newcastle on Sunday, is a positive addition to the squad.

"Stephen Ireland is a very talented player," he said.

"He is different from James Milner who is a power player.

"James has the drive to break the game up. He probably doesn't get into the box as much as Stephen Ireland. I think he [Ireland] glides across the pitch.

"I remember the first time I saw him training with the Republic of Ireland.

"I just thought I hadn't seen the kid before. He glides past people and rides tackles easily.

"His 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."

The Scotsman, who is still unsure whether his future as Aston Villa manager is long term, is willing to wait for club owner Randy Lerner’s decision.

"It's been nice so far but I am a reasonably intelligent man that I would know whether to accept or decline the job.

"I have no problem with the timescale as Mr Lerner will be looking seriously at what he wants to do."

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