Stephen Ireland is on trial at Swindon Town as he tries to re-launch his career at the age of 34 – two-and-a-half years since his last professional match.
The former Manchester City player of the year hasn’t been involved in a league game since a sub appearance for Stoke City in May 2018.
He had recovered from a terrible broken leg injury – and come back just at a time when Paul Lambert was appointed as manager, with the pair having fallen out during their time together at Aston Villa.
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A brief stay at Bolton Wanderers when the club was in the midst of a financial crisis followed – but he did not make an appearance due to playing bonuses in his contract.
But he has never retired – and trained with neighbours Bruno Fernandes and Fred during lockdown, as well as a weekly five-a-side with mates including Darren Fletcher, Joleon Lescott and Wes Brown.
Ireland told The Athletic earlier this summer that he was working “like an absolute maniac” on his fitness and had been in talks with clubs at home and abroad about a return.
He said: “(Training with Fred and Fernandez) has made me think, ‘God, there isn’t much of a difference’.
“I really believe I have three or four years left in me, minimum. Physically, I feel 27 or 28. I just want to get motoring again because there is so much more to come out of me.”
Swindon are preparing for a season in League One under manager Richie Wellens. They won promotion as champions from League Two under the points per game system when the music stopped in mid-March.