Ireland wants ‘fair crack’ at Villa

AFTER a nightmare first season, Stephen Ireland says he only wants a “fair crack” at proving himself with Aston Villa.

The controversial Cobh man endured a torrid time at Villa under Gerard Houllier last season — having left Manchester City after falling out of favour with Roberto Mancini — and he spent the second half of the season on loan at Newcastle, where injury added to his problems.

He made just two substitute appearances for the Magpies.

However, new Villa boss Alex McLeish is ready to give Ireland another try, and the former Republic of Ireland midfielder says he is ready to take that chance.

“I’ve come back this year really determined and really ready to give it a good shot, and hopefully this manager gives me a fair go, which I haven’t had in a while,” Ireland told the Birmingham Mail.

“All I’m asking for is a fair shot. I’m not asking for special treatment, I’m just asking for a fair crack at playing.

“It’s very difficult for confidence. I was a fans’ favourite at City, and that’s what I wanted to become here, have that same support of the fans.

“I haven’t played five games in-a-row since Mark Hughes was City manager, so it’s not as if I’ve played in 20 or 30 games and not done anything.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to perform to even be in that situation. I came in for training and went home. My job was just training, that was it.”

Ireland will hope a change of number can bring a change of fortune. The midfielder will wear the number seven shirt this season after willingly relinquishing the number nine to Darren Bent.

He admits his confidence was dented by his fallout with Houllier and criticism from the Frenchman.

However, the former Republic of Ireland international, maintains he is a player who likes to be treated fairly, rather than one who needs to be indulged.

“I don’t need an arm around my shoulder and it doesn’t bother me if I don’t get one, but if you’re doing well sometimes it does help if you get told that you’re doing well,” he said.

“If you’re working hard for the gaffer and for the team sometimes it’s nice to be recognised. But I don’t need a pat on the back every day. I just want a fair chance to play and if I am playing regularly then that is all the encouragement I need.

“At the time it did knock my confidence, but now it hasn’t. I had the summer to sort all of that out and try to get over it.

“Your confidence comes with playing games and training, starting now, so I’m looking forward to pushing on.

“If I can get a good pre-season behind me I can kick on and try and play the way I can then I can hopefully forget the difficulties I’ve had and be an important player for Aston Villa.”

Villa meanwhile could be delving into the transfer market this week after agreeing to sell Stuart Downing to Liverpool for £20m.

Several players are on the Birmingham club’s radar, with Scott Parker linked with a £7m move and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given also tipped to sign for a fee in the region of £4m.

“We certainly need a goalkeeper,” said McLeish. “We’re looking at a few of them, and we are certainly making progress.”

Wigan’s former Magpies winger Charles N’Zogbia is another close to a Midlands move as Alex McLeish looks to have beaten Newcastle boss Alan Pardew to his signature.

Pardew said: “I am told that Charles has got an imminent move, so I don’t think that will be us.”

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