Stephen Ireland is happy to have escaped to Stoke City after completing a loan move from Aston Villa on Monday.

Ireland endured a torrid season last term, not appearing in the Premier League at all in 2013.

He is now back working under Mark Hughes who was his manager when Ireland excelled at Manchester City.

And the 27-year-old has now revealed the extent to which him and some of his fellow team-mates were marginalised at Villa.

"I knew the writing was on the wall at Villa back in March and they made the decision before last season had even finished," he told the Daily Telegraph.

"“They had two squads, one they wanted to keep and one they didn’t, and I was in the second group.

"I never called it the Bomb Squad, although a couple of the others, like Darren Bent, took it to heart more than I did.

“It was more about self-pride for me. Players were coming up to me saying think of all the days off, you must love it, all the booze and parties.

"But I’m not like that, I’m a family person and I just had to keep myself in good nick. A lot of the players couldn’t believe I wasn’t playing.

“It’s been a difficult few months but now I’ve never been so determined to prove a point. There are quite a few people I want to stick two fingers up at.”

He insists however that he does not blame Paul Lambert for his experiences at Villa Park.

“I don’t hold any grudges against Paul,” he said.

“He made it clear why the decision had been made but I understand all the reasons behind it.

“I’ve said the wrong thing to managers in the past but there was no remorse from me. I expected it when I came back into pre-season and I didn’t kick up a fuss.

“People like Stiliyan Petrov kept me going even when it was hard, sometimes there were only four of us in the group.

“I was driving into Villa wondering what was going to happen next but now I’ve got a smile in my face.”

Ireland was one of the Premier League's top young players when he was at City under Hughes in the 2008-09, picking up the club's player of the season award.

And it could be against his former club that Ireland begins his attempt to return to that kind of form when Stoke host the Sky Blues in the Premier League after the international break on September 14.

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