Ireland hoping for fresh start

The midfielder came to Villa last summer as part of the deal which

saw James Milner head in the opposite direction to Manchester City.

But he was urged by then manager Gerard Houllier to “work harder”

and was eventually loaned out to Newcastle for the second half of

the campaign. Now Ireland just wants to be judged on his

performances and to play a full part under McLeish, who has said

the slate is “wiped clean” for every player. Ireland said: “All

pre-season I’m going to work really hard to try and get in the new

gaffer’s plans. Hopefully I can stay there. “I had a brief chat

with him and he seemed really nice and determined and it seems as

if he’s going to be a good manager for the players and the club

going forward. “Right now I’m in a good place. I’m feeling really

good and really determined. I’ve got a very good feeling about this

year, not just for myself but the team and the fans and I want to

do well for them. “I set goals for myself. Obviously I want to

build up a good relationship with the fans. I want to try and get

in the team and play the best that I can. “I just want a good run

really, I need that because I’ve not really had a good run in the

last couple of seasons. It’s a shame but I can’t let that bother

me. “I’ve just got to keep working hard to try and get my form and

my sharpness back. “It might take four or five games at the start

of the season to get that back, but hopefully as soon as I do I can

look forward and not look back.” Ireland is pleased to have the

chance to finally try and make an impact at Villa. He said: “You

have to start with a fresh new slate now. It didn’t go off with a

bang like I wanted it to when I first signed here. I just want to

be given the opportunity to play. “Last year I felt in training I

had done enough to get that chance to play but it didn’t happen for

me for whatever reason. “I just want to be treated normally when it

comes to training and performance and team selection, and if I’m

working hard enough I’d like to know that I’ve got a clear shot at

playing.” Ireland also insists he has no problem with the city of

Birmingham after an interview last season indicated he was unhappy

to relocate to the area from Manchester. He said: “I just said if I

was only training a few days a week, and not playing, then there

wasn’t really much point moving my family down here and taking my

three kids out of school to Birmingham when I wasn’t even making

the squads. “It was pointless moving house and not even being part

of things at the weekend. I think anybody in my shoes wouldn’t have

moved down. “Then January comes and I go to Newcastle, so am I

supposed to move my family up to Newcastle – and then back to

Manchester, do you know what I mean? “I’ve not got any problem with

Birmingham and I’ll be moving into the area for this season.”