The Potters suffered a major setback around a week ago when influential playmaker Bojan sustained cruciate knee ligament damage that ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign.
The Spaniard was replaced in the first XI for Saturday’s Premier League home clash with QPR by Ireland — only his fifth start this term, two months on from the previous one. And the 28-year-old Irishman made the most of his opportunity, providing the assists from which Jon Walters scored the opening two goals of his hat-trick in Stoke’s 3-1 victory.
Niko Kranjcar gave QPR hope but Walter’s third late on heaped the pressure on Harry Redknapp.
It was a great day for Ireland though. Asked if he felt he could fill the gap in Bojan’s absence, Ireland said: “That’s the plan. I have to step up and keep that shirt now because I want to finish the season off strong and play as many minutes as I can.”
Ireland has made a total of just 10 appearances so far this season. Four of those have come in the Potters’ last five games, which have also seen Ireland score three times in the FA Cup.
“I’m 28 now and I want to be playing week in week out. It’s not nice to just be sitting there. I support the team and want them to do well but I want to be more involved.”
STOKE: Begovic, Bardsley, Shawcross (Muniesa 42), Wollscheid, Wilson, Nzonzi, Whelan, Arnautovic (Crouch 63), Ireland (Adam 73), Moses, Walters.
QPR: Green, Isla, Dunne, Onuoha, Hill (Yun 75), Henry (Zamora 46), Vargas, Barton, Fer, Kranjcar (Hoilett 69), Austin.
Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).