STEVE BRUCE admits he’d love to see Stephen Ireland in Sunderland stripes in the upcoming Premier League season — but fears the Manchester City midfielder may be too expensive an acquisition.
The former Ireland star is unsettled at Eastlands while Roberto Mancini continues to recruit new signings. A move to The Stadium of Light has been mooted this week.
But Bruce, speaking after his side edged a Munster XI 2-1 at Thomond Park on Tuesday evening, admits he is not optimistic of clinching a deal for the Cobh-born man.
“Stephen Ireland is a very gifted player and of course most of us would be interested,” said Bruce, “but he earns a hell of a lot of money and most of us are priced out of the market. He’s a good player, I like him. But whether I can afford him or get him is another matter.”
One Irishman who will line out in the centre of the park for the Black Cats is Dubliner Andy Reid. After a lengthy lay off he enjoyed a solid 45 minutes in Limerick — and Bruce hopes it’s the start of a good year for Reid.
“To be fair to Andy, he’s only played three games since Christmas so it’s a big pre-season for him. So we hope that he’s going to be okay with a bit of work.”
And on the issue of Reid pulling on the green of Ireland again after an apparent falling out of favour with international manager Giovanni Trapattoni, Bruce refused to be drawn.
“I’ve been asked this question for the past two years. Looking from the outside I don’t think it’s going to happen, do you?”
One player who was in Trapattoni’s plans before an horrific cruciate injury ended his hopes of an international debut is David Meyler. Bruce does not expect the former Cork City man to figure before the new year, but his return did help make his mind up to sell experienced captain Lorik Cana to Frank Riijkard’s Galatasaray recently.
“Myler had a wonderful season. And put big pressure on Cana so it was good business for us. As a manager I’ve never tried to hang on to an unhappy player and with [Lee] Catermole, [Jordan] Henderson and the young Irish lad, I’m okay in that position.
“We’d be delighted if it was six months’ time. I can’t see a return this year,” he said.
And though Bruce insists he’s happy with his midfield options, he does expect Daryl Murphy — who also played the first half on Tuesday in Limerick — to exit, and a few more to arrive, particularly after scouting the World Cup talent .
“I would envisage one or two new faces. when you look at what we had last year, we’re down Mensah, Hutton and our captain Cana.
“So we’ve got numbers but we’re short in really adding to the first team.
“I don’t know where the Michael Carrick rumour come from. My press officer said to me you’ve been away for seven weeks and you’ve been linked to 55 players — and signed two.
“We’ve had a bit of success in South America. And if you looked to Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay and what they achieved in South Africa, there’s good players there. Anyone can catch your eye if you play for Brazil or Argentina but we have to be a bit more creative. But we know them all anyway if we’re doing our job properly.
“Daryl Murphy needs to go and play somewhere — and play repeatedly. He’s at a big stage in his career. He did well at Ipswich last year. Celtic haven’t come knocking at my door just yet but I’ve heard the rumours.”
So Sunderland start a long season with a win on Shannonside, and the former Manchester United man is more than happy to have played a part in the Shane Geoghegan Trust’s first major event.
“The facility here is terrific. I believe it’s the first event for the foundation and I wish them well.
“From what I’m hearing, congratulations are due to his mother, who set the whole thing up in memory of her boy. And it’s a tragic story but obviously some good is coming out of it. So we’re delighted we played out part.”
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