McLeish hails improved Ireland
Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish has hailed Stephen Ireland for working hard to improve as a player.
Ireland was rewarded for his fine form this term by being named the fans' Player of the Year at the club's end-of-season awards.
The former Manchester City star has recaptured his best form this season after a difficult first campaign at Villa Park last year.
McLeish has been impressed by Ireland's work ethic and believes the 25-year-old fully deserves the recognition from the club's fans.
"Stevie became pretty popular with the fans with some good performances, especially the Arsenal one at home, which unfortunately we never took any points from despite a good performance," McLeish told the club's official website.
"There was the Chelsea game, in which he was tremendous and he has really looked a different player.
"But I think what for me has improved Stevie's overall game is his harrying and chasing of opponents and closing people down which you really need all your midfield players to do.
"I said to him your natural game would come if you do that side of it and he did and probably one of the tackles of the season was his 60-yard chase back on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
"He made a stealing tackle, where did that pace come from?!
"It shows you what can happen when a player has that confidence."