Given lauds 'talented' Ireland

Given lauds 'talented' Ireland

Published Jan. 17, 2012 7:15 a.m. ET

Given saw at first-hand the potential of Ireland when the duo were team-mates at Manchester City and describes his form during that period as "phenomenal."

Ireland has struggled to make a similar impact at Villa and last season was loaned out by the then-manager Gerard Houllier to Newcastle.

But he has shown encouraging signs in recent weeks and was the club's official man of the match in Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Everton.

Given said: "I think Stephen has had a frustrating time but during the last few weeks you have seen the real Stephen Ireland.


"I think during the win at Chelsea, in glimpses at Villa Park and again against Everton, he has shown that if we can get him on the ball he is very comfortable.

"He can open defences with split passes. I think he is best in that free role he is occupying. He has the talent to see passes other players don't.

"His confidence has taken a lift, he wants to be on the ball more and is more bubbly around the place. That can only be good for the club."

Given, who has returned to fitness after a six week lay-off with a hamstring problem, added: "Stephen was phenomenal at Manchester City.

He was in the Premier League team of the season and everything.

"The Villa fans haven't seen that enough. But we know it is there and I have seen it first hand how good a player he can be.

"He was the first name on the team sheet - and we had a lot of big players at Man City then as well.

"He was a great player for us and hopefully we can get that out of him at Villa."

Given believes Villa boss Alex McLeish will find it difficult to leave Ireland out of the side if he maintains his current levels.

He said: "I do believe in the last few weeks Stephen seems a bit more positive about everything and more confident in his own game which can only be good for us.

"Personally I just think he wants a run in the team. It is tough to get that sharpness when you are not playing that much.

"The gaffer has faith in him to play him more recently. He is doing it now with his performances and the gaffer is going to find it hard to leave him out because he is performing well for the team."