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Ex-Villa and Stoke star Stephen Ireland on timing his Bolton debut

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karlypants

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Stephen Ireland will trust Wanderers to time his return to first-team football just right.

The midfielder has started just twice in 2018 following his return from a serious double fracture in his leg whilst playing for Stoke City but is looking to get his career going again after signing a short-term deal at Bolton.

Ireland played half an hour of a practice match at the training ground on Thursday but is being carefully managed by Nick Allamby, Matt Barrass and the medical team in an effort to bring him up to full fitness with minimal risk to further injury.

The 32-year-old admits he has often been his own worst enemy when hitting the comeback trail in the past but feels he owes it to his new club to heed their advice.

“I tend to get fit quite quickly but in the past I’ve gone hell for leather and encountered problems down the line,” he told The Bolton News.

“I’ve got to trust in the staff. If I get taken out of a session after 20 minutes, my natural reaction is ‘leave me in there, I’m fine,’ but that shows I’m almost battling against myself at times.

“It’s about self-management, now. I want to carry on as quickly as possible but it’s doing things as soon as I can which has caused issues.”

Ireland missed out on pre-season and has trained alone as he looked for a new club.

Since arriving at Wanderers, however, he has got the footballing bug again and is eagerly anticipating his first football for a new club. “Personally, I’ve always played better when I have been thrown straight into the deep end and had that pressure on me,” he said. “But that’s for other people to decide.

“There’s a lot of quality in this team so I am not turning up here thinking I’ve got any divine right. I’ve got to do this properly.

“A lot of that is just me being me. I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself.

“I want to be the best I can possibly be and it will come as some point – if that’s now or in five weeks, I just have to do everything in my power to make sure I am ready.”

Ireland has no doubt he can return to the fitness levels which have seen him play more than 250 top flight games for the likes of Manchester City, Aston Villa and Stoke.

“If I didn’t feel I could get back to where I was, this conversation wouldn’t be happening,” he said. “I’d have packed it in, gone and stayed at home. I’m not going to waste people’s time and money.

“I’ve got a newborn baby at home and she’s the heartbeat of the home at the moment. I’d have plenty to occupy my mind. The thing is, I feel I have something to give, especially to the younger lads in the squad. I’m looking forward to sharing what I have experienced, the mistakes I’ve made and the things I have learned.

“When I broke my leg it gave me a massive kick up the backside and made me think about the person and the player I was, and want to be. I feel like a different animal now.

“I’ve missed everything you do in the lead-up to games, the preparation, the travel, the training. When you have a bit of time out of the game it makes you think and analyse what you actually want out of life.

“I’ve been into the training ground a couple of days now and I’m happy. I like driving in, seeing a good football club at work and it’s insane how sound the lads are in there. If I’m feeling positive about it now, god only knows what I’ll be like when I’m back playing and really settled.

“I’ve kept myself busy for the last two or three months but I need to be about a team environment now.”

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