The 2008/09 season at Man City was the best of Stephen Ireland's career. He played 50 games, scored 13 goals and provided 13 assists as he was named the club's Player of the Season.
His rise in form coincided with the appointment of Mark Hughes as manager. Though, Ireland said that form was not solely about who was in the manager's office, it was also about who was not in the dressing room.
"The right people left that allowed me to play the way I want to play," Ireland told Nedum Onuoha's Kickback with Nedum podcast.
"Joey Barton, these kind of characters, were always there holding me back or pulling me down. There were alot of characters like that who needed to make their way [out].
"Everything aligned and just set up for me. It felt like a family in the changing room. There were lads who I was like, 'Yes, he's injuried today, I know I'm going to play well'. There were plenty of characters like that."
Stephen Ireland hated having Joey Barton as a Man City teammate
Onuoha, who was a teammate of Ireland's at Man City, recalls one particular game away to Newcastle.
"You were coming off the bench," said Onuoha.
"You were told to come on by Stuart Pearce to play in the 10 [position]. Within 60 seconds of you coming on to play the 10, Joey said to you, 'Right, you drop back in, and I'm going to play the 10'.
Ireland described Barton as "funny" and "different".
"It's a prime example of him abusing his seniority," said Ireland.
"That's all it was. It happened many, many a time.
"When you look back on the stories and some of the things that happened, it was just your turn to take your medicine from these lads. That was just the way it was. To us, it was normal, and you were expecting it. Now, it would just never happen.
"Those guys had their role when I was coming through. When a lot of those older pros left before Mark Hughes came in - I think Sven [Goran Eriksson] started getting rid of a few...
"I loved Sven, but I played on the right wing under him. That's why I felt hat I struggled for consistency. I'm not a right winger, and I don't mind doing the graveyard shift five times a year, but when you're out there for the whole season, you can't be consistent. It's not my nature to be out there.
"When Mark Hughes finally put me in that 10/8 role, I think I flourished because I had no restrictions."