Ireland hoping for fresh start
Stephen Ireland has his sights on rebuilding his Aston Villa career under new boss Alex McLeish and becoming "an important player" at the club. 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."
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