Mark Hughes fumes as Stoke's Stephen Ireland sidelined

Stephen Ireland & Maynor Figueroa
Stoke midfielder Stephen Ireland needed 12 to 15 stitches in his calf following a tackle by Maynor Figueroa

Stephen Ireland's career could have been finished by a tackle that left him needing 12 to 15 stitches in his calf, according to Stoke manager Mark Hughes.

Ireland was substituted at half-time of Stoke's 1-0 win over Hull following a challenge by Maynor Figueroa.

The Hull man was not punished for the tackle by referee Neil Swarbrick.

"It was a shocking challenge," said Hughes. "It could have finished Stephen's career. Why it is not a straight red, I have no idea."

Ireland, 28, was making only his 13th appearance of the season for Stoke.

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Hughes fears Ireland is facing a lengthy period on the sidelines. And the Welshman felt the tackle was worse than the one that attracted such controversy last week - by Burnley's Ashley Barnes on Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic.

"There has been a lot of talk of challenges recently but this was worse than any of them," said Hughes.

"We have lost Stephen for any number of weeks. He is in a bad way.

"He has a slice on his calf and needed 12 or 15 stitches. He has come in at half-time, rolled his sock down, and everyone was taken aback by the severity of the gash," he added.

"The referees have got to get their act together. The officials are finding it very difficult to get the key decisions right."

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