Not too long ago, the 31-year-old Stephen Ireland was considered a top Irish talent. The attacking midfielder, born in Cork, came through the youth ranks at Manchester City before making his senior debut for the club against Bolton Wanderers in September 2005. Incidentally, the Trotters have now been linked with a potential move for the player after his contract with Stoke City expired.
Ireland spent 5 seasons at the Etihad Stadium, playing 176 games in all competitions and scoring 23 goals. He then moved to Aston Villa in 2010. During his time at Villa Park, Ireland was sent out on loan to Newcastle United and Stoke City, who signed him permanently in the summer of 2014.
Ireland also represented his nation 6 times, scoring 4 goals. However, his last game for the national team came in 2007.
Back to the present. As already mentioned, Ireland is a free agent after Stoke released him, following their relegation from the Premier League last season.
Bolton, who narrowly avoided relegation to League One last term, are keen to strengthen their squad in the summer, and manager Phil Parkinson is looking at various options. The Trotters have already signed midfielder Jason Lowe, but they need more reinforcements if they are to fare better next season.
Ireland is someone, who might even be considered a coup for Bolton. The Manchester City Player of the Season in 2009 boasts of ample Premier League experience and has the talent and quality to become an instant first team regular at the Macron Stadium.
However, a potential deal might be risky for Bolton as the player has struggled with injuries in recent past. He has managed to play just five games in the last two seasons. His fitness level is nowhere near what is required to feature in a demanding league such as the Championship.
Ireland is definitely talented and experienced. But is he the right man for Bolton, and would it be a good deal for the club? It seems risky for Parkinson to sign him. Then again, if Ireland somehow manages to find his form, it has the potential to turn out to be the signing of the season.