Monday 16 January 2012
Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish said he feels midfielder Stephen Ireland has hit top form.
McLeish hailed the workrate of the 25-year-old former Manchester City player and said that was key to winning the backing of the Villa faithful.
"We have worked hard with Stephen and he is now producing. He has set a standard now which we can't drop below," said McLeish after Ireland impressed in Saturday's 1-1 Barclays Premier League draw against Everton.
"His workrate has been fantastic recently and I think the Villa fans really appreciate that"
- Alex McLeish
The manager added: "I told him there were a few things he could do to endear himself to the Villa fans and that was part of it.
"It is all well and good doing fancy flicks and being able to trap a ball - he controls it brilliantly - but they want to see you doing the graft as well.
"For me that is a pre-requisite for a player in any team. You need to give your lot and show your desire.
"He might not be a big dynamic midfielder who makes the challenges but Stephen reads the game well, he intercepts well as you saw with his goal at Chelsea, and if he rushes to people and closes them down it certainly puts them off their game.
"He has been fantastic at that recently and I think the Villa fans really appreciate that.
"I've told the players that when you do that the fans can give you that wee bit of power by chanting your name and the quality comes."