'Too soon' for Stephen Ireland international return, says Mark Hughes

Despite the changing of the guard in the dugout for Republic of Ireland, the Stoke City boss feels that the midfielder should focus on his club before seeking a recall
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes says that Stephen Ireland is not ready to return to international football just yet and must focus on his Premier League career.

The Potters midifelder's recent good form, including a goalscoring performance against Swansea City, has led to widespread calls for his return to the Republic of Ireland set-up under the new management team of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane.

However, Hughes, who also coached the 27-year-old at Manchester City, believes that he has a long way to go before being considered for international football.

"Stephen's doing OK but he's is not quite at the level that he was at two or three years ago," the Stoke boss told reporters. "In terms of international football I think it is too soon, to be perfectly honest.

15/1 Stephen Ireland is 15/1 with Bet365 to score the first goal in a Stoke win over Sunderland
"I think he just needs to concentrate on getting back on track in terms of playing football week in, week out."

Hughes praised the form of striker Jon Walters, who recently played his 100th consecutive game for Stoke and captained Ireland in their 0-0 draw away to Poland on Tuesday.

"It's great for Jon [to captain Ireland] and he's having a great time of it at the moment," the Welsman enthused.

"We're delighted for him that he was given the honour of captaining his country as I know how important it is for him, as well as just playing for his country, so he should be absolutely delighted with that."

The former QPR manager also spoke highly of Irish midfielder Glenn Whelan and defender Marc Wilson, expecting them to feature heavily in future national squads under O'Neill and Keane.

"Both players had decent amounts of game time last week. Glenn played the first game and was involved in the second and it was vice versa for Marc as well," he added.

"They have been a big part of the Ireland squad for a long time and I see no reason why they won't continue to do so because they have a lot to offer in terms of their ability and their desire to do well for Ireland. I have no doubt that they will be figuring heavily in the next few games."