Hughes hoping Ireland can halt Stoke's decline.
STOKE manager Mark Hughes believes a fit-again Stephen Ireland can provide the creative spark required to ignite the club's season.
After five weeks on the sidelines through injury, former Villa star Ireland returned to the City side on Tuesday, playing the full 90 minutes of the 2-1 Capital One Cup win at Sunderland.
The intuitive midfielder is now in line to return to Premier League action tomorrow night when Stoke host Newcastle and under-pressure boss Alan Pardew.
Stoke, however, have lost both of their first two league matches at the Britannia Stadium this term, an about-turn in fortunes as they suffered only three defeats on home soil all last season.
Ireland's presence will certainly help galvanise Stoke as Hughes said: "He had a setback with injury, a strange one in between his ribs.
"It was a shame because arguably in pre-season he was one of our best performers.
"You could see he had worked exceptionally hard during the summer to get right and to hit the ground running.
"It was disappointing for him and us he had this setback, and so he's had to start building himself up again."