Many people are surprised when they find out new Aston Villa signing Stephen Ireland is Irish, and that’s because he has retired and refuses to play for the national team. His international career lasted only 6 games, in which he scored 4 goals, but since then he has refused call after call to be part of his country’s qualification campaigns. This is not due to a specific falling out with a manager, as the Republic of Ireland have changed a number of managers since then, but the reason he gives for his decision is that “he is just not interested”.

It’s his call, of course, but it is quite strange. Many players retire rather early from international football, but Ireland is only 24, and just swinging into his prime. He was Manchester City’s Player of the Season the year before this one, and he is one of the best goalscoring midfielders in the league. He could walk into most national teams, and would certainly be Ireland’s star, but all this is still not enough to bring him back.

He met with Irish football officials who keep on trying to persuade him to come back, but he told them “no” again. It looks like he won’t be moved from his decision, and the Irish will have to accept that. He is a great talent, but better have players that actually want to represent your country and fight for the team.

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