Former Manchester City Player of the Year urges Vincent Kompany to stay at Burnley "for the next two to three years" at least
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The Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Year contender is widely being tipped to become Pep Guardiola's heir to the throne at the Etihad.
But the ex-Aston Villa midfielder, 36, is urging his close friend to establish himself as a coach with the Clarets first, before reaching for the stars.
Ireland, who appeared alongside Kompany for his City debut in a 3-0 win over West Ham United in 2008, feels the former Anderlecht manager needs the test of top flight football.
He said: "It would be an amazing story if he was to take over from Pep, whenever that is - I don’t know. I also don’t want to disrespect Burnley because they are a great club with a lot of great players there.
"I think Vince has definitely got to stay at Burnley for the next two to three years. At the moment, everything has gone so positively for him so far. But there will be challenges and bumps in the road, and then you will see what people are really made of, see how they respond."
The Championship leaders have lost just twice all season in the second tier, they're within touching distance of the 100-point milestone, and they're averaging two goals-per-game.
The table toppers will face more of a challenge next term when they return to the Premier League and that, Ireland believes, will do Kompany's development the world of good.
"Vince has to go through that transition, he has to go through that path where he has to weather the storm," he said, in an interview with BoyleSports. "It would be a fantastic story for everyone involved if he was to take over after Pep - but we don’t know when that is.
"I think Man City and Pep are a great fit and he could be there for the next 10 years, you don’t know if he wants to go out and manage in Spain or take another job and jump ship elsewhere. Maybe he can’t think about that until he does win a Champions League with Man City?
"In terms of Vince, he is heading in the right direction for his age in such a short space of time."