Hughes reassurance for Ireland
Man City boss Mark Hughes says Stephen Ireland is too good a player to stay out of his plans.
Last Updated: 06/11/09 1:56pm
Manchester City manager Mark Hughes insists Stephen Ireland is too good a player to stay out of his plans for too long.
The midfielder was a star at Eastlands last season but has fallen behind summer signing Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong in Hughes' plans this campaign.
Ireland's 13 goals in 2008/09 earned the 23-year-old a new long-term contract and it is therefore a surprise that he has not been able to regain a place after sickness.
Hughes acknowledges that it has been a difficult decision to drop Ireland following a formation reshuffle, but he does not want to disrupt Barry and De Jong ahead of the visit of Burnley.
The City boss said: "We've changed the shape of the team. For the majority of the season last year we played 4-3-3, but we have changed to a 4-4-2 more often than not this year.
"Nigel and Gareth became a pair when Stephen went out of the team, did well, so Stephen has found it a little difficult to get back in.
"It's not really a reflection on how he is playing because he is doing exceptionally well in training games, or whatever.
"So on a daily basis he is getting back to where he knows he is comfortable with, and he is a great option for us.
"It's about him being patient and biding his time and he will get opportunities, he knows that. He is too good a player to keep out of the team for too long."
Hughes can feel the benefit as his squad continues to settle in the wake of his summer spending spree, even if the results of late have not borne that out.
He continued: "I said at the beginning of the season it would be advantageous not to be in Europe.
"The disappointment of not being in Europe was there at the start of the season, but I think there was a realisation that it's no bad thing for us.
"We're a team that's coming together, and there are lots of things that have to fall into place to allow us to develop and progress as a team."