Stephen Ireland has spoken out about the financial difficulties he faced early in his career, which he says prevented him from travelling for up to ten call-ups for the Republic of Ireland national team.
Ireland earned just six caps during an international career curtailed by controversy - but it could have been so much more for the Corkonian.
Stephen Ireland exclusively told Ladbrokes Fanzine this week that his situation at Manchester City meant he regularly could not afford to travel to Ireland international call-ups, saying he was on just £95 a week during those periods.
Stephen Ireland: Ex-Man City man explains difficulties with international call-ups
Stephen Ireland made his Ireland debut against Sweden in 2006, and would go on to score four goals for his country and win five further caps.
It is a true case of "what might have been" for Ireland, however, who revealed the toll that his personal life took on him during the time of his early international call-ups.
Speaking to Ladbrokes, Ireland said:
I've got really fond memories and had some great times but, I think, me playing for Ireland probably happened too early in my career. I got into the first-team when I was around 18, and I really wanted it, I'm not disputing that. And I think I earned it too, because I gave it everything.
But I didn't realise how much time it would take up, and everything that came with playing for the national side. It just happened at the wrong time for me; my life was chaotic, I was single, with two kids, playing for Man City's first-team, I was on £95 a week, I couldn't even afford to go away. The stress, and how hard it was to deal with, it was virtually impossible for me to go away. I must've had 10 call-ups and was able to make one. I couldn't make it; I literally couldn't make it.
How is that possible? As a young kid, playing in the Premier League, how was I not able to make it? My life was just absolutely...it was a shambles, to be honest with you. It was so chaotic, and unfortunately I couldn't commit to an international career, as much as I would have loved to. I envied the lads who could go, because I couldn't.
Ireland went on to say that he looks back with regret on not reaching out to his club for assistance, but said that he was too young to understand that that was a possibility:
Looking back now I get frustrated, because I'm thinking "why didn't you ask Man City for support? Why didn't I do this? Why didn't I do that? But they were different times; it was just a completely different era.
It's just a shame, because I had so much to offer; I could have gave the team so much. But at the end of the day, that was my bed and I had to lie in it. If my debut would've came maybe two or three years later, when everything in my life was where it needed to be, then maybe things would have been different. It was just too difficult a time for me to put 100% of my heart into it.
The circumstances surrounding Stephen Ireland's inability to accept international call-ups is surprising information, and sheds new light on what was a difficult career for the Irish side.
The former Manchester City midfielder saw his international career come to an acrimonious end in 2007 after he admitted to inventing a false story about a bereavement to gain permission to leave the Irish training camp.
Despite the contentious end to his international career, Ireland said to Ladbrokes that he had been surprised by the positive reception he received on a recent visit to Dublin. He did, however close with the sad line of: "it's kind of irrelevant because I didn't play for them long enough to deserve any sort of recognition from them, so I certainly don't expect anything."