Stephen Ireland announced his arrival at Aston Villa yesterday with a parting shot at the club with whom he spent nine years and a warning for the midfielder he replaced at Villa Park. "James Milner might think the grass is greener at Manchester City," said Ireland. "He may be in for a shock."
Ireland, an £8m makeweight in Milner's £26m transfer from the Midlands to Eastlands, characterised City under Roberto Mancini and its mega-rich Arab owners as a club where bling was the main silverware on the minds of some players.
"I spoke to Darius Vassell, Richard Dunne and Gareth Barry and they all spoke highly of Villa," Ireland said. "It's a family club and one that will get the best out of me. I am actually shocked at how good it is. I've settled in so well, so fast. Even the young lads are so polite.
"At City they're not like that. They're coming in with £10,000 watches on their wrists and walking around as if they have played 200 Premier League games. I can really see myself having a good time here." Villa, he added pointedly, were "a proper club".
Ireland, who expects to play "some part" in Villa's match at Newcastle on his 24th birthday tomorrow, also had strong words for City manager Mancini, who froze him out of the first-team scene last season and claimed the Irishman needed to improve his attitude.
"I think that was really unfair," he said. "All the players know I was the first in training and the last one out. I've worked the hardest and on the tackles and stuff I was always ahead of everybody. I was one of the best players [in training]. You know when you have your bad games, and you're having a sticky patch, but at least then I put in the hard work.
"It's not as heartbreaking leaving as it might've been," added Ireland. "For me the past year or two, it hasn't been easy to operate."