... Stoke boss Mark Hughes hopes midfielder Stephen Ireland will join the Potters on a permanent basis.
The former Newcastle United loanee playmaker is at the Britannia Stadium on a season-long loan from Aston Villa, where his contract runs out at the end of the season.
Ireland has impressed in spells so far, particularly with a goal and an assist in this month's 3-2 victory over Chelsea.
But he was a flop at Newcastle, spending most of his time at Gallowgate on the treatment table, although he was photographed down the Quayside posing with his shirt off!
Hughes said: "He's done very well for us and we're pleased with what he's producing.
"He's out of contract at the end of the season and it's fair to say I don't think Stephen thinks his future lies at Aston Villa. He will be moving somewhere, ideally it would be to us."
"Talks have taken place, but only in passing, there's been no official deal as yet.
"Stephen's enjoying his time here and it's up to him to keep on playing well and impressing everybody here, which he has done up to this point."