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I'll sort out Ireland - McLeish
Published : 26 Jul 2011 15:53:00
Alex McLeish intends to revive Stephen Ireland's Aston Villa career as he prepares to seal the signing of another midfielder, Charles N'Zogbia. McLeish has announced the midlands club are edging towards capturing Wigan's N'Zogbia in a deal thought to be worth around £9.5million, with a medical seemingly the only obstacle to the Frenchman completing the move. "The deal hasn't been fully done yet," the Scot said during an Asia Trophy press conference in Hong Kong. "He still has to complete a medical. I believe everything else is just about there." While delighted at the acquisition of N'Zogbia, McLeish also feels Ireland can have a big part to play this term as the club look to better their ninth-place finish last season. Highly rated while at Manchester City, Ireland's career has faltered following his move to Villa Park as part of the deal that took James Milner the other way and McLeish is eager to help the 24-year-old recapture his old form. "Stephen Ireland, a couple of years ago he looked an amazing player, making these forging runs from midfield, getting in the box, scoring goals, picking out the right passes," he said. "Every ball he touched it turned to goal, it seemed. Then, all of a sudden, his game hasn't gone the way you would expect. "The player has excelled in training, making those piercing runs and I'm looking forward to getting Stephen Ireland fit and competing for the whole season. As a manager, your job is to get the best out of every individual and that's what I'll do with Stephen Ireland." N'Zogbia, meanwhile, looks set to become McLeish's second signing of the summer following goalkeeper Shay Given, and the 25-year-old Frenchman is keen to seal the switch. "The move is not made yet. I must agree on the terms of the contract but Liverpool or Arsenal could have positioned themselves (to sign me) and I would still go to Villa," he told the French press. "It has been two to three weeks (agreeing a deal) and the club has done everything to have me." McLeish was pleased to sign a player he feels can go some way to compensating for the loss of England wingers Ashley Young and Stewart Downing. "I think it's a great addition to the squad. He's an explosive player and he gives us a little bit of quality to replace one or two of the guys that have left the club," he said. "You saw his exploits last season, especially towards the end of the campaign when he scored five or six goals which were extremely important for Wigan to stay in the league. "I felt we needed to replace Downing with similar quality. He's broken into the French national team. I believe we've got a player who can become even better." The Scot was also quick to temper expectations for a side that endured a tumultuous time last term. "I have a team that finished ninth in the league last season. I know it was a difficult first half of the season and the aim of every team is to get off to a flyer," added McLeish. "We've added a couple of players that will enhance the quality of the squad and hopefully get us off to a good start. "I wouldn't like to shout from the rooftops and say we're going to challenge for the top four. I'd be a fool to do that. "We finished ninth. Can we better that? It'll be extremely difficult given that a lot of other teams have been 'tooling up', if you like. "Sunderland I think signed 10 players, Stoke City are also linked with many players with quite extortionate transfer fees so we're under no illusions the Premier League will be more competitive than ever." However, midfielder Stiliyan Petrov is optimistic better times are ahead for Villa. "I'm very excited. We didn't have the season we wanted last season but now we have a very ambitious manager, a manager who wants to look forward and wants us to be somebody," he said. "He doesn't want us to have a comfortable season. He wants to achieve things and it's great to see a manager like that come to the club and all the players are ready to go."