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Stevie getting back to his best

Ireland scores vs Scunthorpe

Ireland scores vs Scunthorpe

Stephen Ireland has been tipped to hit the heights he reached last season once again by manager Mark Hughes.

The midfielder was the overwhelming choice as the club's player of the year for 2008/09, but since an illness in late September he has in the main made appearances from the bench.

A bout of dizziness forced Ireland off towards the end of the Fulham Carling Cup tie, and although his opportunities have subsequently been limited he has still had an impact, most notably against Aston Villa and Scunthorpe United.

A change in formation for the Blues has also asked different questions of the 23-year-old, and Hughes accepts that he has had a lot to contend with so far this season.

He said: "We have changed the shape of the team, in fairness to Stevie. For the majority of last season we played 4-3-3, but more often than not this year we have changed to 4-4-2, with Nigel and Gareth becoming a pair after Stevie went out of the team.

"They have done well, so he has found it difficult to get back into the team but it's not reflection on how he is playing. He's playing exceptionally well in training games on a daily basis, he's getting back to where he knows he is comfortable with and he is a great option for us to have.

"But, he needs to be patient and bide his time. He will get opportunities, he knows that, he is too good a player to be out of the team for too long."

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