Ireland grateful to Stoke boss Hughes for rescuing career
"I would've done anything to get the chance to come here. I'm really grateful that I have. I'm starting to find my feet now and get my instincts, sharpness, hunger and passion back," he told the Sunday World.
"My time at Villa wasn't very nice - you're going to lose a bit of passion when you're training on your own for six months.
"When you're on your own with a football for that amount of time, you wonder what direction you're going to go in. What direction can you go in? My hands were tied, but thankfully I've come here and things are starting to go good.
"The Villa thing is a really long, strange story, purely because I had five managers in two-and-a-half seasons. For some reason, as soon as they walked through the door, they decided I wasn't for them.
"In the summer, it was difficult for me to know where I was going to be. Would I be playing in the Championship? Would I be going on loan? I really didn't know where my future was going to be.
"I just thank Stoke for bringing me in and taking care of me, and I want to repay them with my performances. I really cherish my chance here and would like to secure my future for as long as possible."
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