Date: 16th October 2017 at 4:44am
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Stoke City manager Mark Hughes has said that midfielder Stephen Ireland remains in his plans as the player works his way back to fitness after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

The Republic of Ireland international has been out injured for almost 18 months following the serious knee he sustained. His last appearance for Stoke came in the two one defeat to Crystal Palace back in May 2016 and although the 31 year old has made progress in his return to fitness, Hughes told the Official Website that his return had been hampered by a number of niggly muscle injuries on top – but having been out for so long that was to be expected.

‘Stephen has had a frustrating time in recent weeks. He has been back with the group but has been picking up little niggles, which is to be expected to be perfectly honest. When you are coming back from a long term injury and your body is readjusting to the rigours of training each day then you open yourself up to little issues.’

Hughes went on to say about his current state of play that he did have an issue with his thigh, but he’s close to overcoming it.

‘He has a little problem with his thigh, but he is frustrated because he can see that he is very close to a return. He just needs to steer clear of these little injuries, he is working hard though, getting stronger and will be back and available soon.’

The Welshman ended by saying.

‘It is difficult for any player, and Stephen can get a bit down on himself because he is desperate to get back playing. He just has to remain positive, he has a lot of support around him and he is a very good guy – he will get the encouragement he needs here, and I am sure he will be back soon.’

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