MARK HUGHES is thinking of replacing controversial midfielder Joey Barton with … er, controversial midfielder Stephen Ireland.

Hughes loves a bad boy

The QPR boss completed deals for defender Ryan Nelsen and Fulham striker Andrew Johnson yesterday — and Ireland could be his third old-boy signing.

Hughes is looking to strengthen his midfield as bad-boy skipper Barton is banned for the first 12 games of the season.

Aston Villa’s £4million-rated Irish rebel Ireland — who has refused to play for his country since 2007 — played under Hughes at Manchester City.

Nelsen, who was with Hughes at Blackburn, has joined on a one-year deal after a loan spell at Spurs.

He said: “I’ve obviously got a lot of history with the manager and that was a massive draw for me.”

Sparky also hopes to seal a £3.2m permanent deal for Nancy’s Mali midfielder Samba Diakite.

And England keeper Robert Green could join from West Ham on a free.