McLeish gets warmed up by Ireland's smoking form

Aston Villa 1-1 Everton

Villa Park

When three weeks ago Alex McLeish was shown a picture on a social networking website of a shirtless Stephen Ireland apparently smoking a Middle Eastern shisha pipe it was little wonder a deep furrow crossed his craggy Glaswegian brow.

"I have to say it's not my world, the way players live nowadays," McLeish said. It was, of course, not the first instance of bizarre behaviour on the part of the former Manchester City midfielder; nor, probably, the last.

Yet in spite of the cultural and intellectual gulf between them, the Aston Villa manager has somehow coaxed from the maverick 25-year-old the confidence to express himself on a football field.

In the last month he has been Villa's star turn, scoring his first goal for more than two years in the morale-boosting win at Chelsea and giving another outstanding performance on Saturday that had the home crowd chanting his name.

"It was brilliant to hear that," McLeish said. "I told him there were a few things he could do to endear himself to the Villa fans. Fancy flicks are all well and good but they want to see you graft as well. He has been fantastic at that recently and I think the fans appreciate it."

Ireland believes trust is making the difference. "Probably since I first got here I haven't been given that trust but I have now," he said. "I'm getting a good run of games and I feel like I'm getting better and fitter."

Had the goal he set up for Darren Bent been decisive, it would have made Ireland's day complete but Everton deserved the point won when the excellent Landon Donovan – outshining his LA Galaxy team-mate Robbie Keane's nine-minute Villa debut – created an equaliser for substitute Victor Anichebe.

Bookings: Aston Villa, Albrighton. Everton, Fellaini

Man of the match: Donovan

Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)

Attendance: 31,853

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living