STEPHEN IRELAND has lavished praise upon Stoke City manager Mark Hughes and the Club's supporters for making him feel wanted again after pledging his long-term future to the Potters.
The 27-year-old's career stagnated during an unsuccessful spell at Aston Villa prior to his summer switch to the Britannia Stadium.
However, he has since rediscovered the form he showed at Manchester City after reacquainting himself with Hughes for a second time and had no hesitation in signing a three-year contract which commits him to the Club until the summer of 2017.
Speaking exclusively to stokecityfc.com shortly after penning his long-term agreement, he said he would be forever grateful to both the manager and the fans for helping him to rejuvenate his playing career, and is aiming to pay them back by helping secure a landmark top-half finish this term.
"It's important for every player to feel wanted and to be a part of a family and to be honest I haven't had that for a long, long time," the Republic of Ireland international revealed.
"Thankfully I have felt that warmth here at Stoke and truth be told I couldn't really be in a better place than I am at the moment.
"For that, I have to thank the gaffer immensely because he is the main reason why I came here in the first instance, and of course, he is a big factor in why I am delighted to agree this new deal now.
"I have also been able to build a good relationship with the supporters too, and that is very warming to me, because it has been a long time since I have felt loved at a football club."
He added: "I wouldn't have been able to enjoy my football again like I have done if the manager hadn't have brought me here in the first place, so of course, I am incredibly grateful to him and the club for doing that."
Ireland says his immediate ambitions are purely on helping the Club secure a landmark top-ten finish, but admits that he is already ear-marking the forthcoming 2014/15 campaign to really cement himself as a key figure in the starting eleven.
"It would be fantastic to finish in the top half of the Premier League this season, that is the aim and it is an objective that I have full confidence in us being able to achieve," he went on to say.
"There is a lot of quality inside the dressing room, and that fills me with a lot of excitement for the future – both from a personal point of and from a team perspective.
"It has been a really successful season for us so far, and if we can go on and pick up the results we are striving for over the coming weeks then it could be a campaign that we can all look back upon with a lot of pride.
"I am 27 now and I really do feel that my best years are ahead of me and hopefully I can keep improving here and flourish in the team, which is my aim.
"I'm playing with a smile on my face again, and everything that I used to love about football has all come back to me again here at Stoke.
"I just want to get out there and keep improving as a player and keep on helping the team to produce good performances and superb results."