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McAllister wants fully-fit Ireland

Caretaker manager Gary McAllister admits Aston Villa midfielder Stephen Ireland has to gain full fitness before his "real talent" can blossom.

Ireland is returning to Villa to undergo rehabilitation work after his loan spell at Newcastle was cut short by injury setbacks. It was a similar scenario during the first half of the campaign after Ireland moved to Villa from Manchester City as part of the deal which saw James Milner head in the opposite direction.

McAllister, who is continuing to deputise while manager Gerard Houllier recovers from a heart problem, said: "Stephen is an Aston Villa player. He's our responsibility. When he reports back, he needs to be assessed by the medical people here and then be set a programme to get fit."

He added: "He has had all these problems for a long time now."

When asked if Ireland will still be at Villa next season, McAllister said: "He went on loan, it's not worked.

"He's had problems up at Newcastle as well, a number of injuries as well, groin, hamstring, ankle, he's not had much luck.

"There is no doubt he is a talented player but he's got to get fit before we see the real Stephen Ireland."


From Belfast Telegraph