Stoke keen on permanent Ireland deal
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes is hopeful of turning Stephen Ireland's loan move into a permanent deal this month, but is keeping his other transfer targets under wraps.
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Ireland has returned to something like his best form since arriving at the Britannia Stadium on a season-long loan deal from Aston Villa, and has scored three times in 15 appearances for the Potters.
With his Villa contract expiring at the end of the campaign and no likelihood of a new one, Hughes is looking to agree terms as soon as possible in the hope of creating a vacancy for another domestic loan player.
Premier League teams are only allowed two such players in their squads and Stoke also have Liverpool's Oussama Assaidi on their books.
“We're looking into that [permanent deal] for Stephen, that's the intention,” Hughes said. “We've had conversations with Villa and we would like it to be concluded. If it does happen it frees up another loan for us domestically that would give us a bit of flexibility, which would help.
“We'll try and use that loan in a good way. We'll be pleased if it does come off and there's no reason to think it wouldn't. If Stephen does join permanently that's credit to him since he's been here because he has done very well.”
Stoke host Liverpool on Sunday and although Assaidi has been just as impressive as Ireland during his short time with the club, Hughes does not expect similar developments with him.
Asked if it was a conversation he would be eager to have with opposite number Brendan Rodgers, Hughes said: “I think that's a separate situation. I think Ossie's intention when he first came here was to try and come and play, make an impression and show he has ability to play for Liverpool in the future.
“I haven't discussed that train of thought with him since then really, but I still think maybe he feels he has a future there. If that has changed in his own mind at end of the season that could be the time to have the conversation. Now is not the time to make Ossie's loan permanent because I don't think there's an opportunity to do that.''
As for any other deals on Hughes' radar, the Welshman was keeping his thoughts to himself.
With plenty of other teams looking to strengthen before the window shuts, he has no intention of alerting rivals to potential options.
“It's fair to say we're in the market for some players, but I wouldn't confirm or deny any names,” Hughes said. “Like everybody else we're trying to get an understanding of what's out there and we've done some work on a number of players we think we can progress with.
“But if you flag somebody up that can highlight those players to other people, and it's a dog-eat-dog situation in January, sometimes you can find you lose a player by virtue of people knowing about them. If you throw petrol on the flames you can sometimes get burned. So we'll be playing our cards close to our chest.''