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Newcastle lose Ireland's services

Newcastle midfielder Stephen Ireland's difficult season has been put to a premature end after he was ruled out of the final four games of the season with an ankle injury.

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The on-loan Aston Villa man sustained the problem during Saturday's 1-1 draw at Blackpool.

The Magpies confirmed in a statement that he will be unavailable for the remainder of the campaign after having the injury assessed by the club's medical staff.

The 24-year-old has made two appearances for the Tynesiders since his January arrival from Villa Park, coming off the bench against both Manchester United and Blackpool.

Ireland left Manchester City amid much acrimony in August, but also failed to settle at Aston Villa. After a fall-out with Gerard Houllier he joined the Magpies in January but his spell there has been wracked by problems of form and fitness.

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