Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish has told midfielder Stephen Ireland his chance to impress will come despite a difficult start to his career at Villa Park.
Ireland fell out of favour with Gerard Houllier last season, and even a loan spell at Newcastle United yielded just one appearance due to injury.
And having made a solitary appearance for Villa this term, during the Carling Cup win over Hereford United, McLeish is urging Ireland not to be downbeat despite his low key start to the season.
“It depends, it can change,” said McLeish. “Stephen could come off the bench, score a wonder goal, make a couple of great passes and all of a sudden you’re thinking about him for the next game.
“That’s how it can work in football. You’re looking for people to impact right away and put themselves up for the cup in terms of selection.
“He’s not played much for a couple of years and I think he’s still building on his conditioning side of things, getting the muscles to a certain condition so that he can get back to the Stephen Ireland that we all remember from a couple of years ago.”
One man who knows Ireland better than most is Shay Given, who played with the 25-year-old at international and club level and has also backed the former Manchester City midfielder to hit his straps for Villa.
“Stephen has been bang on in pre-season in training,” said Given.
“In some of the games he’s not looked as sharp as he has in training, but that will probably come with more games.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here again, if you can get him on his game he’s a top player.”