Stephen Ireland keen to prove his worth to Aston Villa

I can be smoking hot! Ireland out to prove his worth for Villa

Stephen Ireland's form for Aston Villa hasn't been as smoking hot as the shisha pipe he was drawing on before Christmas.

But finally there are signs that the 8m signing can light up the Premier League for Alex McLeish.

A starring role at Chelsea has been followed by another improvement – this time on home turf.

Determined to succeed: Stephen Ireland celebrates with Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor

Determined to succeed: Stephen Ireland celebrates with Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor

It led to Villa's supporters chanting his name midway through the second-half – which must have been music to his ears.

Ireland set up Darren Bent for the opening goal and showed glimpses throughout in a position just behind the England international.

It has been a stop-start 18 months for the playmaker since his move from the Etihad Stadium.

'I started on the left wing and the manager swapped me with Gabby,' he said, 'It worked well.

Taking it easy: Stephen Ireland appeared to be smoking a a Shisha pipe

Taking it easy: Stephen Ireland appeared to be smoking a a Shisha pipe

'I can get a little lost in the game out on the left. I'm feeling good, I'm getting fitter and I'm feeling the benefit of a consistent run.

'There's so much going on in a game at the moment that I'm ending burned out.

'I picked up an injury – a dead leg – in the first ten minutes and it was just numb. But I didn't want to come off and wait six or seven games before I got on again.

'I feel like I'm getting there now. It's a question of getting on the same wavelength as some of the other players.

Finding the right wavelength: Ireland says he is getting better and working out where his team-mates are on the pitch

Finding the right wavelength: Ireland says he is getting better and working out where his team-mates are on the pitch

'At Man CIty I could play passes because I knew where everyone else was. But at the moment I need to get on the same wavelength as everyone else.

'I feel like I'm going in the right direction and the more football I get, it will improve.'

And what about the shisha pipe

'I threw a party a few months ago and I was renting them for everyone,' he added, “I had one leftover for myself. We had Christmas day off, so I thought I would just celebrate it with a bit of shisha. It's all a bit of fun.'

Another player who was enjoying himself was Landon Donovan. The American international looked a class act at Villa Park.

Bright spark: Landon Donovan tracks LA Galaxy team-mate Robbie Keane

Bright spark: Landon Donovan tracks LA Galaxy team-mate Robbie Keane

He was the undoubted bright spot for David Moyes – along with Shane Duffy who enjoyed an impressive full introduction to the Premier League.

Donovan was the stand-out attacking threat. Lively and intelligent throughout, it was his pass that allowed Victor Anichebe to strike a 68th minute equaliser.

Moyes said: “I thought Landon was the best player on the pitch today.

'And for him to come in and play the 90 minutes – and not get taken off – is testament to the professional he is.

'I thought his running and his energy were fantastic. It's a credit to him to come and do that.

Debut boy: Darron Gibson made his first appearance for Everton

Debut boy: Darron Gibson made his first appearance for Everton

'We are going to try and give him a couple of days off so I don't burn him out before he goes back to LA!”

Moyes was mightily pleased with a point considering his injury woes. What is worrying though, is that this appears to be a consistent theme at Goodison Park.

A strong cast-list on paper, wrecked by injuries – and significant ones at that – which undermine the Scot's otherwise excellent work.

'We have put in a centre-half in Duffy who has not had a Premier League match before today,' added the Toffees' boss, 'then we had Darron Gibson who had not played for us before. And Landon.

'We were without Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Rodwell, Coleman, Osman who would all have started today – or been close to it. Considering that, we put on a really good show.'

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