STEPHEN Ireland is eager to make up for lost time after landing at Wanderers.

The former Stoke City midfielder lost nearly two years of his career to a badly broken leg but feels a move out of the Premier League comfort zone could be exactly what he needs to recapture his love for the game.

Ireland has signed a short-term contract with Bolton, which will be reviewed in January, and is relishing the chance to experience his first taste of football outside the top flight.

“It’s all a bit new. New club, new style of play, new teams to play against, new stadia, but I’m completely open-minded and looking forward to the whole experience,” he told The Bolton News.

“At this point in my career and with everything that has happened I just want to play. I want to play loads and loads of football. I want the feeling of walking off the pitch and being sat in the dressing room with your legs throbbing.

“I want to be around the training ground, in among the lads working hard, the whole team ethos, because for too long I haven’t had it, and I missed it.

“When you’ve been through a bad leg break like I had, it does change you. It gives you a different perspective on what is important to you, what really matters.

“Now I’m here at Bolton wanting to show myself, never mind anyone else, that I can still cut it and what I am still capable of doing.”

Ireland did return to football after his double leg break at Stoke but found himself playing a bit-part role as they sunk to relegation.

The midfielder admits he became unhappy on the periphery – and though he will need to gain some match sharpness before he is pitched into battle at Bolton, the 32-year-old is determined not to end up in the same situation again.

“I got stuck in a rut,” he said. “You’d come off the bench for six minutes, not play the next week, then get 15 minutes – and that becomes your story. Rather than say ‘hang on a minute, I’m worth more than this’ you just accept it and go along with it. You get complacent. It becomes a job.

“I don’t want to do that to myself. If I get to that stage again, I’ll pack it in and stay at home to look after my kids.”

Ireland appeared close to signing for Wanderers in the summer but when the deal broke down he found himself exploring other options, which included a move to the Scottish Premier League.

A call from Phil Parkinson last week changed his course, however, and has given him some fresh focus to continue his career.

“I don’t really know what happened in the summer,” he said. “I came in for a training session and got a bit of a sore calf but then everything went dead and I heard nothing more.

“I was wondering why things went on so long but I’d got other things in the pipeline, other options, and I’d pretty much got my head around the Bolton interest fizzing out when I got a phone call saying it was back on again.

“The fact I’d been there, spoke to the gaffer, knew the area and the facilities made it a lot easier for me. I didn’t really have to think about it.

“I was losing my patience with some of the other stuff going on, so I’m delighted that Bolton came back in for me and I was able to sign. I can’t wait to get going.”

Ireland coincidentally made his professional debut against Wanderers in 2005 for Manchester City.

The game is best remembered for Stuart Pearce's Blues hitting the woodwork on five separate occasions, only for Sam Allardyce's Whites to steal the points with a penalty from Gary Speed.

"I remember it like it was three months ago," said Ireland. "It was a crazy game. It all passes by so quickly but hopefully I'll be able to make some good memories with Bolton now."

Ireland feels he can play on for "five or six years" but knows full well he will have to prove wrong his doubters. A double leg fracture sustained in a training ground challenge at Stoke has left him at a career crossroads but the Irishman feels he and Bolton could be good for each other.

"If I didn't feel like I could cut it I'd give up, or go over to America and just wind down but in my own mind, I know I can still play at a top level and straight away I have picked up good signs from this club."